Last week I announced a new blog series to bring more awareness to the organizations you donate to as part of the Small Change initiative. My goal for the Spotlights is to create local and national ambassadors for these organizations. As you read about each organization, you’ll learn their greatest needs, challenges, and how you can get involved. While not everyone can help directly—we can all share the Spotlights, as you never know who it may reach and benefit.
If you’re new to my blog, you may be asking, “What’s Small Change?” Small Change is an initiative I started in July 2014 to encourage donations to organizations making a difference in the communities we visit for our races and other adventures. To date, 30 organizations have benefited from Small Change and combined have received a total of nearly $4,000.
I’m incredibly excited about my first Small Change Spotlight—The Wish Project, a “Goods Bank,” providing home and clothing needs to the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. Donna Hunnewell, Executive Director of The Wish Project, didn’t hesitate to answer my questions and share more about the inspiring organization she founded in 2005.
What does The Wish Project do?
Our mission is to provide our community with basic furniture, home, clothing, and baby needs while helping the planet by reusing and 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 and help end homelessness in the long term.
What is your greatest need as an organization?
Money. We are self-funded and it’s a struggle each year to even pay our lighting bill. In terms of small goods, our needs include basic necessities like socks and underwear for adults; larger items, we need dressers/bureaus and small kitchen table sets.
What does success look like?
Each year The Wish Project provides more than $1 million in value of used and new goods to 35,000 people in the Merrimack Valley, which includes furnishing 750 apartments and providing clothing and shoes to roughly 4,800 people. Of the 700 tons of goods we receive, 90% is reused by the families we serve; the other 10% is recycled to make us a zero waste facility.
Can you share a memorable impact story?
Last September, Lowell High School contacted us with a special request. The school had 13 students who wanted to participate in track, but their families lacked funding to purchase running shoes and athletic wear. Schools officials noticed one student stapling and taping the soles of her shoes together, which prompted the request.
The community responded by donating running clothes and shoes to outfit every student in need. We received generous gift cards from donors to local area running stores. In total, we supplied nearly 50 students with the gear needed to participate in track and other sports. The initial request was for 13 students, but because we had such a terrific response, we served more students then initially hoped. A big thanks to Kaitlyn Brennan and Moms Run this Town (MRTT) of Greater Manchester for donating over 60 pairs of running shoes!
This experience resulted in many positive ripple effects. Several of the students volunteered with The Wish Project and shared the shoes and clothes they received—it’s amazing how the kids with the least, give the most. Small things like running shoes are life-changing and are enabling kids to play school sports.
We now have an ongoing relationship with the school and have passed on information about other grants and scholarships in the community to serve additional students in need.
How can community members get involved?
There are many ways—volunteer, donate goods or provide financial support. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and to learn what is needed daily.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We’re currently seeking more space to better service our clients and donors. Our own wish is to own our building.
Keeping with the theme of my blog, what’s your favorite local outdoor or adventure spot?
Seabrook Beach—it’s very relaxing.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Wish Project or getting involved, contact Donna directly at email@example.com.
A special thanks to the Small Change Runner who donated to The Wish Project as part of running the Baystate Marathon. Where’s your next race or adventure? I encourage you to leave behind a little goodness in your destination city by joining together for Small Change. The organization you select may be the next Spotlight!