Valley business, Arizona Roofing Systems Inc., has plenty of experience working on homes (literally on top of houses, that is) but realized that there is often plenty of fixing that needs to be done inside the home. That’s why they recently launched a campaign to help spread awareness of local organizations who serve our community’s most vulnerable populations. We are honored that Helen’s Hope Chest was chosen to be featured in their first round of interviews, which you can read in-full below:
Interview with Arizona Roofing Systems Inc.
1. What do you do exactly?
At Helen’s Hope Chest, we work to provide clothing, hygiene products, school supplies, books, toys and other basic needs free of cost to foster families across Arizona. Clients are scheduled by appointment and may return once every 4 months.
2. Why do you do that? What motivates you?
We do this to help alleviate the financial strain of families have opened their home to a child in need. Children often come into the foster care system with little more than the clothes on their backs and it can be very difficult for the family to provide all of the child’s needs all at once. This is especially true when the new caretaker is also the child’s retired grandparent who must suddenly try to make their monthly fixed incomes stretch even further than before.There are so many things that happen every day at Helen’s Hope Chest that give our staff and volunteers the energy they need to keep doing what can occasionally become exhausting work. For one, it is always inspiring to see the community’s swift and generous support of our kids. Whenever we are in need of donations, there is always somebody willing to rally their neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, or classmates to help collect these items. Similarly, many of the foster families who receive these goods donate them right back to us once their child either outgrows the clothes or exits the foster care system to be reunited with their parents. To see someone who once needed help be so eager to offer it to the next person is incredibly up-lifting. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we get the most motivation when we see a positive change in a child after their experience at Helen’s Hope Chest. As most children living in the foster care system have suffered some type of physical and/or emotional trauma in their life, many of them exhibit serious behavioral or social challenges as a result. And, since many of our clients are families who have just recently taken in a new foster child, there is usually still a degree of “warming up” that needs to be done between them. However, once the kids get to start enjoying a fun and normal experience of picking out new clothes, backpacks and school supplies, a new hand-made quilt, a few good books and other personal items, we almost always see an improvement in their attitude and behavior. If both the child and the caretakers leave happier than when they arrived, then we know the day’s work has been well worth it.
3. Most ridiculous moment you had to face? An interesting or fun anecdote you’ve encountered in your work that you’d like to share.
There are always lots of fun and interesting things happening at Helen’s Hope Chest. One notable example is when we recently received a donation of about 200 boxes of CloSys toothpaste and mouthwash. By the next day, you could smell peppermint and bubblegum from the parking lot. It was lovely, actually.
4. What was the hardest/toughest moment you had to deal with? Also, what is the biggest challenge you’re faced with today? Obstacles you faced when dealing with bureaucracy, permits, funding, etc. Something you would like to point out for anyone who might be starting its own organization.
We were actually very fortunate when it came to establishing Helen’s Hope Chest in 2009. Thanks to the leadership and expertise of Mesa United Way, we were able to get our 501(c)(3) non-profit status approved quickly and were connected to donors who wanted to help. A few years later, in 2014, the City of Mesa and Gorman Construction Co. helped us design and donate the construction of a new 8,000 square-foot facility where we stay for just $1 per year and can serve up to 900 kids per month. Our advice to people looking to start new non-profits is to collaborate with talented people who believe in your mission.The unpredictability and seasonal ebbs and flows of in-kind donations can sometimes be a challenge. Our volunteers do a great job of inventorying everything and deciding which items we will be in critical need of in the future, but receiving donations right at the moment that we have clients who need them can be a tricky thing to coordinate. However, times like this are when the financial contributions of individuals and local business supporters are most valuable as having those reserves allow us to respond to critical shortages as they arise.
5. What separates you from the rest? Why you? Is there a reason you couldn’t join a similar existing organization?
Helen’s Hope Chest was founded as, and still operates as, a program of Mesa United Way – a non-profit that has been serving Mesa residents for nearly 100 years. Additionally, it was only after much collaboration with multiple organizations and agencies that Helen’s Hope Chest came to be. That said, there are lots of great organizations doing similar work across Arizona but there are several things that make Helen’s Hope Chest unique. First, our staff and volunteers pride themselves on curating a warm, welcoming, and tasteful environment where children of all ages enjoy spending time “shopping” with us. The most important thing we can do is to help our clients regain a sense of dignity and normalcy and creating a respectful environment in which they can pick out clothes and supplies is a critical part of that goal. Secondly, working with donated in-kind goods at the level that we do is a massive undertaking. It is only because of our loyal donor base and nearly 1,000 volunteer hours each month that we are able to sort and process the community’s donations and get them into the hands of kids who need them. For a relatively new or small organization, it can be difficult to complete this type of work efficiently.
6. Do you have any upcoming events for this year?
1.) Mesa United Way’s Community Celebration: Saturday, November 4th from 10am-2pm. This will be a family-friendly event in Downtown Mesa complete with live music and entertainment, food trucks, bouncy houses and awards distributed to local businesses and community organizations that have ran outstanding United Way campaigns in 2016. Admission will be free, but attendees will have the option of donating toys for JaKelle’s Christmas Box, our annual holiday toy drive for foster kids (Link: http://www.mesaunitedway.org/event/mesa-united-way-community-celebration/)
2.) Las Sendas Food Truck Friday: Friday November 3rd from 5am-9pm at 7900 E Eagle Crest Dr, Mesa, AZ 85207. We will have a table set up where attendees can learn more about Helen’s Hope Chest, meet some of the staff, and make donations for JaKelle’s Christmas Box. (Link: http://www.korproperties.com/mesa-food-truck-fridays/)
3.) JaKelle’s Christmas Box: Now thru Dec 11th. We will be collecting new, unwrapped toys at the Helen’s Hope Chest facility (126 E. University Dr., Mesa, Az 85201). Toys will then be distributed to approximately 3000 local foster kids through the week of December 11th. We are currently offering co-branding sponsorship opportunities to local businesses as well as families, neighborhood groups, church groups, fraternities, sororities, and other civic social organizations. Contact John Zielonka @ email@example.com or 480-834-2115 for more information.
7. Tell us about your goals.
Our goal is to serve as a reliable and effective support system for the foster families of Arizona. To achieve that goal, we strive for operational excellence and sustainability in every aspect of our work. This includes ensuring that all in-kind donations, volunteer time, and financial contributions are used in the most efficient ways possible. Secondly, we rely on consistent client feedback and a number of metrics to ensure the effectiveness and need for our services. Regarding our goals in terms of numbers, here are a few things we look at to determine the success of our organization:
1.) Number of clients served monthly ranges from 750-900;
2.) 5,904 clients served during back-to-school and holiday events in 2016;
3.) Number of monthly volunteer hours ranges from 1,000-1,500;
4.) 4,350 individual donations made in 2016;
5.) 80-90% of clients rate cleanliness, selection, and overall satisfaction of their visit a 5-of-5;
6.) Every dollar donated to Helen’s Hope Chest and Mesa United Way programs is leveraged to yield the impact of seven dollars according to national and regional standard values for goods and services. When we look at these figures, we all feel very proud; but like any organization, we are always looking for opportunities that allow us to grow.
8. What was the most fulfilling moment that happened to you?
One of the most fulfilling experiences for me took place when I first started at Helen’s Hope Chest. I was working with a volunteer group that was helping us clean and sort recently donated books when a slip of paper fell out from between the pages of a chapter book. The volunteer read the note aloud and it turned out to be a poem written by a former foster child describing the night his mother abandoned him. The incredible thing, however, was that by the end of the poem he was encouraging the reader – who would have been another foster child picking the book at Helen’s Hope Chest – to persevere through challenging times and not be defined by them.
Anything else you would like to add?
We would like to encourage everybody to redeem their 2017 Arizona Foster Care Tax Credit (up to $500 per individual or $1000 for couples filing jointly) with a financial contribution to Helen’s Hope Chest. This donation will count as a dollar-for-dollar credit to reduce your 2017 Arizona state tax bill and is a great opportunity to support local charities with tax dollars already owed. For more information or to make your donation, visit us online at www.helenshopechest.org or in-person at 126 E. University Dr., Mesa, Az 85201.
Mesa, AZ 85203
Phone: (480) 218-8888