We had the great pleasure of speaking with Gretchen, and today she shares more about the non-profit and how they are helping the youth of Madison County:
How did H.O.P.E. for Kids start?
“Kris Beatty found out about some specific needs of students in Madison County. She reached out to me because at the time, I was involved with a few non-profits serving the Greater Jackson Metro area. We soon realized that those organizations focused mainly on specific school feeder patterns and while they could help some, we would need to do something ourselves. We pulled together some friends that lived in Madison to meet those immediate few needs of which we had learned. In meeting those needs we also realized that there were many more impoverished students in Madison County.
We decided to do some Christmas care packages for students and the schools serving those students. Then we made the decision that we should keep it going after Christmas. By this time, it was evident that we needed a full fledged non-profit that focused on helping counselors within Madison County, since many of the counselors and teachers were trying to meet the needs for many of their students.”
Who runs the non-profit?
“As for the day-to-day operations, Kris Beatty, who serves as the President, does most of the heavy lifting. I am her back up. We also have several volunteers who help out such as Ashley Chambliss, Lauren Fairburn, Heather Grovich, Shea Whittington, and Monique LeFleur, to name a few. Dr. Brenda Jones has also been a supporter and was helpful to us in making sure we navigated correctly through student privacy issues.”
How does H.O.P.E. enrich the lives of Madison County children? Tell me about everything you do!
“We provide clothing and hygiene products to students facing economic challenges via the student's school counselors. We also do Christmas care packages for students, as needed. We have helped families who are victims of house fires in the tri-county area and have also helped impoverished families in the tri-county area as well. However, our main focus is making sure children in Madison County have access to hygiene products and thanks to Levis Strauss, clothing. We love to connect families in need with other resources as well.”
“Most of the time, school guidance counselors reach out to us. In those cases, we never meet or know what students we are helping. We know whether they are male or female and sometimes the grade or size clothing they wear. We are completely dependent upon the counselor to let us know what is needed. We are also very careful not to infringe on student privacy. However, on several occasions we have helped families whose homes have burned or families who are in need, simply through word of mouth. When the parents of the students reach out to us we normally get to meet the faces of the people we are helping.”
Where are you located?
“I almost laughed out loud, as we really are in a couple of closets and garages!! We do not have a physical location and there is really not a need for one at this time. We run the non-profit out of our homes. Every closet Kris and I have is stuffed with containers filled with HOPE donations. We have been lucky to be able to use local churches and businesses to help out with out events and collections projects. We have collected hygiene products at Beagle Bagel Madison, First Methodist Church of Madison, and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. We also had a fundraiser at Burgers & Blues in Ridgeland. In addition, Levi Strauss stores most of the clothes except for a few of each size that Kris and I keep on hand for emergencies.”
“We have had several organizations, such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, schools such as Highland Elementary, day cares such as First United Methodist of Madison, and some high school prayer groups do product drives to collect shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, hand sanitizer, body wash, tooth paste, tooth brushes, dental floss, wet wipes, socks and underwear. We depend on organizations to help us with the collections and this is the heart of our non-profit. Kris and I go pick up the products, sort and distribute them. We need volunteers in early December to help us put the Christmas packages together, and also throughout the year to sort clothes and products as they are donated.”
With their Mission Statement, “H.O.P.E.: Helping others by providing essentials. MADISON COUNTY H.O.P.E. FOR KIDS is organized for the purpose of providing healthy essentials to enrich and empower the lives of Madison County children experiencing economic challenges,” Kris, Gretchen and their incredible volunteers are positively impacting the community of Madison. Thank you, Gretchen, for sharing your story of H.O.P.E.! For more information, please visit their Facebook page here, or reach them at email@example.com.