End of year reports: Victoria’s Hope moves to bigger facility, serves more than 1,700 in 2019

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Victoria’s Hope is located at 1430 Fourth St. SW (U.S. Highway 278) across from West Elementary School in Cullman. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Victoria’s Hope was started by April Bowen German in 2018 as a ministry to single mothers, in memory of her own mother, Victoria Hammond Hankey. From a small office in Dodge City and various rented storage units, the organization relocated to a storefront on U.S. Highway 278 near West Elementary School in July 2019 and became Victoria’s Hope Thrift and Treasures. The nonprofit thrift shop provides free clothing and household goods to families in need, and donates proceeds to other local charitable organizations.

German reported on an eventful year.

“In 2019 we have served over 1,700 individuals in the form of clothing or household needs. We have assisted close to 15 families alone that have lost their homes to a fire, which is such a sadly high number. During the Christmas season, with the help of the community, we were able to help provide for over 80 children to have a wonderful Christmas. Not any of this could have been done without this wonderful community.”

Helping other groups and getting help

In the thrift shop hangs a small chalk board which records the contributions of Victoria’s Hope to other charitable organizations, and German had to start writing smaller to fit in all the numbers as the year went on.

Said German, “Our YTD donation board exceeded our goal of $10,000; it has now changed to over $11,000 in the form of monetary donations and donations in the form of clothing, household items, etc.

“During 2019 we have been blessed to be able to partner with many nonprofits in the community such as Curt’s Closet, Victim Services, The Link, Oasis, (Hope) for the Homeless and Restoring Women’s Outreach. All of these nonprofits do a great job of working together to make sure the members of our community do not do without. If someone has something that they do not have the resources for, they will send them to us to see if we do and vice versa. I’m so thankful that we have so many services in this community and that we are all able to work together.

“Flourish of Cullman (sic) has been such a blessing to us this year. Every other week, they have volunteers that come in and help with whatever we may need. And those volunteers have become like family to us. They are such a blessing to be around! And so much fun!”

2020 ambitions

German told The Tribune, “Our plans for 2020 are to hopefully continue to do what we have been blessed to do in 2019, but also to be able to do so much more! I still have a goal of paying off student lunch debts in some schools by the end of the 2019-2020 school year. We have been setting funds back for that and also have a “Coins for Children” jar at the shop that many people put their change in to help as well, and a little change adds up after a while! 

“We also want to thank this wonderful community (for) supporting us through our thrift store. We do not have any corporate sponsors or anything like that at this time, so we rely on the thrift store to be able to pay our rent on the building and keep the lights on. Our prayer for 2020 is that we can continue to do that,” she said. “The thrift store has been a lot of work, and long hours, and I don’t know what I would have done if my husband had not stepped up to run it for me when I went back to school. But it has been such a blessing. I have met so many people from just having the store that are now like family. And I get a blessing every time that I am in there. There are times of discouragement and worry if we will be able to continue to do what we are doing, and all it takes is someone coming in the store and saying, ‘This is a great thing you have going here; don’t give up.’ That’s all it takes to remind me to keep going. A huge thank you to Chad Burks for renting us the place and believing in us. God has blessed us so much this past year, and I can’t wait to see what he has planned for us in 2020.”

German is looking to expand her services in 2020.

“By the end of 2020, I would like to of course be able to pay off the student lunch debt, but I’m also working on plans for offering free tutoring sessions to students who have families that could not afford it otherwise. Being a teacher myself, kids have a special place in my heart, and it breaks my heart to think of a child failing because their parents couldn’t afford to get them the extra help that they need.”

Get involved

Said German, “We of course run this whole thing off of donations, and I feel selfish ever asking for more because we have been so blessed with people bringing us their items that they don’t need any more that someone else might. But please keep them coming in! You never know: that old ratty blanket that you were going to throw away may be a blessing to someone on the streets that would be freezing otherwise. That old pair of shoes in your closet may be the best pair of shoes someone has ever put on their feet. Helping others is what it’s all about! So please know your donations are always welcome anytime we are open! You don’t even have to contact us first, just bring them in and we will help you load them! 

“We have also had people ask about monetary donations. Although this is something we ask for, it is always welcome and needed to help keep all of this going. We ask for your continued support in 2020.”

German is also hoping for ongoing support and sponsorships from local businesses, churches and other organizations. If your organization can help, please see below for information on how to contact Victoria’s Hope.

The final word

German shared, “I just can’t say thank you enough to this community for their support these past 17 months. To think of what we started as, to where we are now, is just mind blowing. And it couldn’t have been possible without everyone’s help. We are so blessed to live in such a wonderful, giving community.

“We also know how sometimes people can be too embarrassed to ask for help. My mom was one of those people. So please know if you are struggling right now to provide for your family, or just starting out and don’t have anything to start out with, that is what we are here for! So please don’t ever hesitate to ask us!”

For more information, to make a donation or to apply for assistance, visit www.facebook.com/victoriashope1952/ or www.victoriashope.org, call 256-252-8268 or drop by the shop at 1430 Fourth St. SW (U.S. Highway 278) across from West Elementary School in Cullman.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com