Governor and Mrs. Ducey led a large gathering of community leaders in dedicating the new Helen’s Hope Chest on Thursday, April 30. The spacious new donated building at 126 E. University Drive in Mesa will allow Helen’s, which originally opened in early 2010 in a small building near the new location, to serve a growing clientelle of foster families from throughout the East Valley and beyond.

In his keynote address, Gov. Ducey praised Mesa United Way and the dedicated staff of mainly volunteers at Helen’s Hope Chest for improving the lives of thousands of foster children by providing them with free clothing, school supplies, books and toys. Gov. Ducey said Helen’s stands as an excellent example of a community coming together to fill a pressing need when government is unable to provide relief. Helen’s was created by Mesa United Way after state funding to foster families was sharply reduced during the recession.

Helen’s Hope Chest was named in memory of Helen Paula Simmons, a former foster child who managed to raise a family of her own despite difficult circumstances. Mesa United Way President and CEO Dan Wollam said the work of Helen’s also has been inspired by JaKelle Westergard and John Adams, both of whom passed away tragically at young ages. JaKelle’s Christmas Box and John’s Room, the main toy room, are now prominent parts of Helen’s Hope Chest.

Mayor John Giles praised Mesa United Way as a major force for good in the community for many generations. Mayor Giles expressed gratitude that Mesa United Way resisted strong pressure in the past to become part of a singe Valley-wide organization. MUW is currently the only independent United Way in the Valley and has maintained close ties with Mesa businesses, churches, civic organizations, the school district and city government. That strong community partnership made it possible to create Helen’s Hope Chest, and has become a model for other United Ways around the country.

During the dedication ceremony, City Councilman Chris Glover and MUW Board Chairman Scott Perkinson thanked City Manager Chris Brady and other city officials, and contractor Gorman & Co. for providing the new Helen’s Hope Chest building at no cost to MUW as part of an affordable-housing project.

Following the ceremony, Gov. and Mrs. Ducey were taken on a tour of the new building while guests mingled and enjoyed refreshments.