Victoria’s Hope approaches 1-year mark, eyes expansion and new location

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Victoria’s Hope Founder April German receiving a donation from Cullman Savings Bank President/CEO John Riley in early May (Photo courtesy April German/Victoria's Hope)

DODGE CITY, Ala. – It has been almost one year since April German started Victoria’s Hope, a ministry providing free clothing and other necessities to single parents in need, to honor the memory of her mother Victoria Hammond Hankey.  The Tribune asked German to share her experience and what’s ahead.

German shared, “It’s so hard to believe we are approaching the one-year mark at Victoria’s Hope!  What has been the hardest year of my life has also been the most life-defining at the same time.  I never would have believed that as I was still grieving over losing my mom, I could also see so much kindness at the same time.  I have met so many amazing people in this past year that I would have never met if Victoria’s Hope had not come about.  I have seen complete strangers donate money and time to others without wanting any recognition or even a thank you.  I have seen clients that I was blessed to be able to help come back later to me with donations wanting to ‘return the favor.’  I love seeing that chain reaction of kindness.

“That’s what I want Victoria’s Hope to always be about, showing kindness to others.  And there has been so much kindness spread in this community that it’s just been a very humbling experience.”

A new year, and a new place

Said German, “I am looking forward to bigger and better things for Victoria’s Hope as we approach our one-year mark.  To just think: a year ago I was doing it out of my house.  This time last year we were just getting started, and I was so proud of the fact that my sister Heather and I had been able to shop and get clothes for five deserving moms that people had nominated, to now moving into a storefront!

“Victoria’s Hope is moving in June across from West Elementary.  I am very appreciative of Gerald and Janet Turner for renting us our first ‘home’ for Victoria’s Hope, but with the community’s help and donations, we have definitely outgrown our old spot.  When we were looking for a new place, our main focus was having a place where we could store furniture for our clients.  I had so many wonderful people offer to donate furniture, but we just didn’t have the space in our building we were in, and now we will!”

She continued, “We have also decided, to be able to help even more in the community but still do the same thing we have been doing, we would open the store to the public as well.  It will be open as a thrift store.  My main focus is that all my clothes will be neat and clean, no holes or stains, and very affordable to the public.

“I will also still be taking in clients as we have in the past to shop for free if they qualify.  When they qualify, they will be given a voucher for a certain amount and they can ‘shop’ with that voucher.  Each voucher amount will be based on income, family size and individual need.  For instance, within just this past year, it’s broken my heart to see the number of people that have come to us that had lost their home to tornadoes and fires.  In those situations, of course, their spending amount will be a lot more because they will be needing a lot more things.

“We will have furniture, clothing, household items and hopefully some cool ‘treasures’ that thrift store shoppers love to find.  Me and my husband are avid thrift store shoppers so we are both so excited to be doing this!”

Where will the thrift store’s profits go?

Said German, “With the profits that are earned from the store, I plan to put away each month for ‘goals’ I am hoping to reach, to help our community even more.  My goal for this year is to touch base with all the school guidance counselors to help financially when they see a need arise.  For instance, say there is someone who is doing all they can for their family, and they can’t afford all the fees for their child to graduate, we would like to take that burden off of them.  I would also like to pay off some, if not all, school lunchroom debts at our schools at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, to take that burden off of parents as well.

“Being a teacher, I see sometimes those debts get very high, then sometimes it’s impossible for a parent to ever catch up for their child to get to a positive balance.  The children, thank goodness, never go without eating, even when they are in the negative, but it would be a stress taken off that parent and help our lunchrooms with the student debt.  Just in my K-2 school I work at, there is an average of 250 dollars or more of student lunch debt at the end of the school year.  I would also love to have enough to offer a scholarship at the end of the 2019-2020 school year to a student who may not be able to go to college otherwise.  

“Another goal I have which may take me a couple of years is to offer free tutoring for students in our community that qualify.  There are so many parents who I know would love to get their child help with school, but just simply can’t afford tutoring.  There are a lot more things I have planned, but if I was to list them all, you would think I was crazy and a dreamer!  But someone told me not long ago that ‘every big thing starts with a dream,’ so until I’m proven otherwise, I will continue to dream big for Victoria’s Hope and our wonderful community.”

No project like this is a solo act.  Who’s helped you?

German shared, “There are so many people I want to list and thank that have helped me this past year, but it would fill up more than one sheet in the paper!  But I do want to, of course, thank my sister for helping me with our vision and seeing it through with me.  Lora Raley and Kristi Cassels for their many hours of volunteering; those ladies were there more than me, and it was on a volunteer basis.  They did it because they have such huge hearts and they wanted to be there.  I couldn’t have made it this year without them.  Also thank you to Chad Burks for renting us our new place, John Riley and Cullman Savings Bank for your generous donation last month, and everyone who throughout the year has donated in items or monetary.  None of this would have been possible without each and every one of them.

“And a special thank you to the two ‘angels,’ as I like to call them, who believed in me and my dream enough to offer to help me get into a new place.  These two ladies want to remain anonymous with no recognition, but they know who they are and they have been such a blessing to me, and this definitely would not have been possible without them.  

“Lastly to my amazing husband and three boys, who have had to deal with me through all of this!”

Anything Victoria’s Hope needs these days?

German said, “We, of course, are always taking in donations of any kind.  We hope we are able to move the donations so fast through the community that we will always be needing more.  We always have a need for plus-sized clothing and, of course, any kind of children’s clothing.  We also will be doing our back-to-school drive this year, so will also take any new or slightly used backpacks and lunchboxes.  

“We also have a donation button set up on our Facebook page if someone would like to do a monthly monetary tax-deductible donation to Victoria’s Hope.  Even a dollar a month goes a long way!”

The final word

Said German, “The last thing I want to add is, I feel if anyone has benefited the most from Victoria’s Hope this year, it would have to be me.  I have learned so many things and have seen so much kindness from complete strangers.  Helping these people whom I sometimes see so much of my mother in, is just so heartwarming.  To see their struggles but see them continue to push forward for their kids, their strength is amazing.  I have cried with so many of my clients because so many of their stories have been so similar to the things my mother went through.  

“I believe everything happens for a reason.  Now I see why I had to as a child and teenager watch my mom struggle but never give up, because as an adult and mother myself now, I can relate to their stories because I experienced seeing it with my mother.  I want them to see through my mother’s story that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and Victoria’s Hope will be there for them during their journey to watch them overcome it as well.”

For more on Victoria’s Hope, visit www.facebook.com/vickishope42018/.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com