2012-03-29 / Front Page

Project Hope Will Expand Building

Charity Finds Strong Community Interest in St. Ignace, Launches Fund Drive
By Mary Petrides


Margaret Eby (left) and Wanda Styes laugh and joke while sorting and folding donated clothing at Hope Chest. During the winter months, the sorting room is crowded with additional volunteers and workers from the Jobs, Education, and Training program through Michigan Works! Expanding space for volunteers is among the renovations planned at the charity. Margaret Eby (left) and Wanda Styes laugh and joke while sorting and folding donated clothing at Hope Chest. During the winter months, the sorting room is crowded with additional volunteers and workers from the Jobs, Education, and Training program through Michigan Works! Expanding space for volunteers is among the renovations planned at the charity. St. Ignace Area Hope will launch a series of fundraisers beginning in May to expand and improve its building on Ferry Lane. The growth is a consequence of the charity’s success in gathering community donations for its resale store.

“When we started, we didn’t have this much stuff. We never envisioned we’d have this much stuff,” said Connie Litzner of the donations.

St. Ignace Area Hope includes a hotline, where people can call for assistance with rent or utility bills, and Hope Chest, a thrift store. Merchandise is sold by donation only, and those donations fund the hotline assistance. The St. Ignace Food Pantry, a separate entity, is housed in the same building.

The agency hopes to raise about $150,000 to $180,000 for additions and improvements to the building. They need more work space for the volunteers, more floor space for the merchandise, improvements to the food pantry, and they hope to add more windows.

The small room where workers sort and fold clothing fills during winter months, when workers from the Jobs, Education, and Training program, a department of Michigan Works!, put in the community service hours required of them to receive cash assistance, in addition to the regular volunteers.

“It’s hard to be productive in a small room,” Mrs. Litzner said.

Those coming to Hope Chest to receive food from the pantry wait in the lobby of the thrift store, and Mrs. Litzner said she hopes to make a separate entrance to the food pantry to provide clients with more privacy.

“Improving this is going to be one of the big pluses,” she said. “We’re not raising money just to have it.”

It’s important that revenue from donations go toward the hotline, not toward building renovations, she said, so when it’s time for building renovations, it’s time for fundraisers.

“The whole concept of Hope is to take this money and help people with their financial needs,” she said. “The needs always will come first.”

If the charity doesn’t raise the total amount needed for all the intended renovations, the money will go toward some of them, depending on how much is raised.

In 2011, Hope helped 371 families pay their bills, said Treasurer Tom McClelland, including electricity, gas, heat, rent, medical expenses, transportation, water, and other expenses. Total assistance was $75,400 for the year and $287,920 since its founding in July 2006.

“Besides helping people pay bills, Hope fills a really valid need for people who just want to get new things or people who just want to get rid of old things,” he said.

The first fundraiser will be Saturday, May 19, at Jose’s Cantina. The afternoon will include a meal and a fashion show, where models will show off secondhand outfits.

“We want people to see that you can dress really nice on a budget,” Mrs. Litzner said.

Hope Chest volunteer Margaret Eby will design the outfits. Mrs. Eby has an eye for nice outfits, Mrs. Litzner said, and when she dresses the mannequins in the store, those clothes are sold quickly.

Several models from age 8 to adult are already signed up to participate, Mrs. Litzner said.

Businesses and individuals donating $100 or more will have their names added to a plaque at the front of the store. Mrs. Litzner said she is still looking for ideas for fundraisers, and those with ideas can call Hope Chest at 643-7360. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The store is at 250 Ferry Lane.

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