With a bigger floor area and more storage, the Whispers of Hope thrift store is doing better than ever in their new location. The soup kitchen, which is located in the back of the MAAP (multi-agency accommodation project) building, has also strongly benefited from the new digs.
To celebrate their first year in the new location, Whispers of Hope will be hosting a celebration this Saturday (Nov. 1) at the store.
“What we do here is run the community kitchen and the thrift store,” said Andre Boruck, coordinator for Whispers of Hope. “We’ve been running a thrift store for a few years before moving here but it wasn’t very successful. When we moved to our new location it changed quite a bit.”
Boruck said Whispers began in 1996 as Hands of Mercy. Before moving to the MAAP building last year, the kitchen and store was run out of a small building on Central Avenue and Second Street.
Boruck said the new building offers separate access through the back of the building to the soup kitchen.
“In the old location you had to walk through the kitchen and dining area to get to the thrift store,” he said. “Here the dining area is in the back of the building and the thrift store is in the front. It makes it much better for shopping.”
Boruck said that working with MAAP partners BETHS and Habitat for Humanity has been extremely beneficial. “We have this umbrella organization that is helping us access more funding and different things like that.”
Boruck said Whispers would not have been able to move into the new building without the partnerships. “The city sold this building to Habitat for Humanity and we’re subleasing it off of them,” he added.
The profits made from the thrift store allow the community kitchen to offer meals to those in need.
“We serve a hot meal every day,” said Boruck. “At 9 a.m. we open our doors. People can come by and have a coffee and breakfast, which is mostly pastries and things like that. At 10:30 a.m. we have our hot meal and serve until about 11:30 a.m. and close around noon. We have quite a few people who come in and use that service for such a small town.”
Whispers of Hope have already served over 5,000 meals this year, he said, with an average of 26 meals per day.
“That’s been going up,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s just an indication of need or an awareness that were here. But it’s an interesting trend.”
The kitchen is open year round from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until noon. The store (also open year round) is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Although there is paid staff at the store and kitchen, Boruck said they do rely heavily on volunteers. He also added that Whispers has looked at opening the community kitchen on weekends and/or having evening meals, but at this time they just don’t have the funding or volunteers.
“We have a lot of volunteers,” he said. “We have a handful that are here a lot. We have a bunch that are on the list but come and go. Those people make this place run.”
Boruck said they try to have six people at the thrift store during the day to be able to handle the volume of clothes coming in and to sort and price them.
“Everything that’s here has been donated from the community and must be sorted,” he said.
For the kitchen, much of the food is donated. Any food that needs to be bought, is purchased with money made from the thrift store, said Boruck.
“The idea is that the thrift store supports the soup kitchen,” he said. “We’re a non-profit so it’s all going back into the community.”
Boruck said the kitchen is much bigger and better in the new location. Whispers has been able to bring in new and improved equipment and a bigger and better staff in the kitchen.
“We used to be in a very cramped building with no room for storage,” he said. “Coming here, we have a new kitchen, new cupboards, and a new fridge—all that has allowed us to do a better job. The quality has really come up. I think the whole atmosphere—the environment of having more space, having a newer, cleaner, better-run, I think, facility—has spilled out into all aspects.”
The work Whispers of Hope does in the community has not gone unrecognized; in fact, recently they won an award at the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce small business awards for community impact.
“It’s a tribute to all the volunteers that work at Whispers of Hope; but especially to all the people and business of the Boundary for their generous donations in monetary funds and goods,” said Jack Raven, chair of the Whispers of Hope Benevolent Society. “
To celebrate one year in the new building, Whispers of Hope is hosting an open house and one-year anniversary on Saturday (Nov. 1) in the new location.
The event starts at 10 a.m. and everyone is invited. The thrift store will be open will some great deals, said Boruck. The shelter (BETHS) and community kitchen will be open to anyone who wants to take a look.
“We’re happy to be able to serve the community,” he added. “We’re encouraged by everything that’s happened with the new building and the MAAP partnership and we want to celebrate with everyone who made it possible. It’s been a big year.”