Helen’s Hope Chest (HHC) began as a project of Mesa United Way after the economic crash in 2008. A small clothing closet was opened in a borrowed church room in 2009 that provided 1,400 units of service to foster and kinship families. Helen’s Hope Chest provides hope to children and teens in foster and kinship care by meeting their basic needs through our special boutique. Children and teens are able to shop for free four times per year. Each visit they choose five outfits, underwear, shoes, hygiene items, and books. On their first visit, they pick a special handmade quilt. Children receive a new gift for their birthdays and other special days. HHC is designed to provide a “normal” shopping experience for the youth without adding financial burden on the families. Over the past decade, HHC has grown into an 8,000 square foot building and provided over 12,287 units of service with a value of nearly $2,000,000 in FYE 2018.
HHC currently serves an average of 800 foster and kinship youth per month, a 56% increase from 2015. Items are provided without cost to the child or foster family, helping fill the gap in state benefit cuts. According to the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), there are currently over 14,000 children in state care. 71.1% of these children are victims of neglect and most children are removed from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
HHC’s Back to School program provides backpacks and school supplies to over 1,700 youth in July as well as the opportunity for foster youth entering college to outfit their dorm rooms. In December, HHC holds JaKelle’s Christmas Box where foster/kinship parents are able to choose gifts, books, stuffed animals, and stocking stuffers for each child. In 2018, HHC provided gift packages for 2,975 children and teens.
HHC’s newest initiative, Foster360 (F360), provides wraparound services to young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who have experienced foster care. F360 focuses on forming key partnerships with other nonprofits serving the same population to deliver services involving every aspect of these youths’ lives as they transition out of foster care. Foster360 acts as a liaison between these young adults and their care team providing accountability, encouraging sustainability, and teaching interdependency. The main goal of F360 is to prevent homelessness in youth aging out of foster care.