Why is a Household Goods Bank Needed?
The Merrimack Valley communities have some of the highest poverty rates in the State, According to the National Low Income Coalition Out of Reach 2013, Massachusetts ranks sixth as the most expensive state for renters.
Even for a two income family, obtaining household goods is a daunting task under these conditions, For an at risk family struggling with a loss of a job, family tragedy or recovering from homelessness it becomes almost impossible.
The Wish Project is a critical resource for furniture, household goods and baby needs serving these families in need. In any given week, there are as many as 100 families with children, sleeping on the floor in largely unfurnished apartments in our own community. Without The Wish Project, families have very few affordable options. Household furnishings for a family is a burden that too often families can not carry. So they simply go without. With support from The Wish Project they are able to manage their expenses, reducing the likelihood of becoming homeless again.
Our mission is to provide our local people in need with basic furniture, home goods and baby goods, while helping the planet by recycling used goods. Only when people have their basic needs met can they move forward and out of the social services system. By providing basic goods to people in crisis, we help end needless suffering in the short term while helping to end homelessness in the long term.
Once the basic needs are met, individuals and families can begin to work towards improving their lives and gaining independence from government subsidies. Our aim is to help the disadvantaged move toward re-establishing home life once housing has been secured. In doing this, our donors recycle their no-longer-needed furnishings, clothing and home goods back into use to people who desperately need them.
We interact directly with state and local shelters and housing programs to effectuate a smooth transition for those moving from shelter or emergency situations into apartments. This provides a unique and cost-effective approach to a problem whose urgency is repeated daily in the individual circumstances of each client.
In 2000 the founder Donna Hunnewell volunteering with many social service agencies became inspired by how often the agency workers themselves went out of their way to supply goods and find furniture for needy clients.
In the early years the campaign to help families in need was phone calls and emails, recruiting donations from friends.Then personally delivered to the social service agencies. It was obvious a larger solution was needed. A local food bank provided the inspiration for the model. Food Banks solved the regional hunger issue but there seemed to be no solution for families moving out of shelters to receive the household goods needed to get back on their feet. From this unfilled need The Wish Project was born.
Using a similar model of a Food Bank for household goods, The Wish Project reached out to the community for donations, rented a small warehouse space and began its mission. In 2005, a board of directors was assembled, and the papers were filed making the Wish Project a registered 501c3 non-profit organization. It now resides in the present 15,000 sq ft warehouse space on Foundry St. in Lowell.
The Wish Project services clients throughout Greater Lowell and the Merrimack Valley . Most of our clients have suffered a one-time life-altering event. More than 85% are women and children and nearly. We help homeless families the elderly, mentally and physically ill, infants, babies, and individuals. All we require is that they are partnered with a social agency so together they can work to determine the goods and services they need. Our online referral system, dramatically reduces the paperwork and wait time between social service agency referral and The Wish Project assistance. Once the request for help, or the “Wish”, is submitted and approved All that is left is a trip to the warehouse to pick up the goods. and the “Wish” comes true
The Wish Project brought on staff in 2007 and now currently employs 9 part time staff and 1 full time employee. Each year an audit is conducted by an independent outside accounting firm. Our 12 member board meets monthly . It is our 1,200 volunteers who log more than 10,000 volunteer hours a year that are the secret to our success.
Since its inception, The Wish Project has moved from 70% grant funded to 97% privately funded. The three largest sources of revenue are private donations, agency fees and active fundraising. In 2011 a Zero Waste Initiative was implemented that opened new revenue streams through recycled electronics, clothing, paper, and other goods unneeded for client use.
In the short term, The Wish Project is seeking more space to better service our clients and our donors. Our long term dream is to own our own building and we are actively pursuing this dream. The ultimate goal is to have a Household goods Bank in every major city but, for now, ending homelessness one family at a time here in Merrimack Valley keeps The Wish Project busy.