Hope. It is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give someone. For people in our community, that gift is offered abundantly through Hope House, a free community clothing closet that provides those in need with clothing, food, hygiene items, household items and much more.
Aimee Christopherson is the volunteer director for Hope House and said that Hope House also assists people who are homeless or living in transitional shelters including garages, sheds, campers, vehicles and motels. “We receive funding donated from Columbia Bank and other community donors,” said Aimee. “We do not receive any grants and are funded solely by our generous community.” Hope House has been in its current location for just over six years in the small trailer park on Camelot on the northwest corner of Roosevelt and Division in Moyie Springs.
Aimee moved to Bonners Ferry in 2004 and since that time has been an active member of the community and has held various positions in the local schools. She is currently a part-time special education teacher at Mount Hall School.
This year Aimee serves as the district’s homeless liaison, helping students and families living in transition. “My husband is a pastor at a local church and also works at Boulder Creek Academy,” she said. “Since living in Boundary County, we have served our community in various capacities including being foster parents since January 2007. My husband and family are super supportive of my work through Hope House, helping haul, deliver and sort as needed.”
And it is not just her family who steps forward when volunteers are needed at Hope House; people from all over the community help out.
“Hope House has amazing volunteers that spend countless hours sorting, doing laundry, organizing and serving those who walk through our doors,” said Aimee gratefully. “Our community supports us with monetary donations that help us serve the homeless, keep food in our cabinets, fridge and freezer, and [provides us with] toilet paper, diapers and laundry detergent. We also have community members that help cover our basic operating expenses.”
While those at Hope House do many things throughout the year, they also do much around the holidays to make Christmas brighter for those less fortunate.
“One of our Christmas projects is putting together little gift bags, a lot like a bag of stocking stuffers, for kids of all ages in our community,” said Aimee, who adds that while they always get some great donations for preschool to elementary age kids, they are always in need of small gifts for preteens and teens. This past Christmas, Aimee said the community, as always, responded generously with hats, gloves, jewelry, socks, toothbrushes and more.
Aimee is passionate about volunteering, something that stems from her youth. “I began volunteering at a young age. I grew up in a family with means and heart to help others in various ways,” she said, going on various mission trips as a youth to serve those living in poverty needing basic essentials Aimee said she took for granted. “It beckoned the question, ‘What needs am I missing in my own community?’”
When she was 16 years old, Aimee started serving meals at the Union Gospel Mission in the community where she grew up and looked forward to sitting down with the patrons at the end of the meal and hearing their stories.
“In high school I volunteered as a babysitter for a program offering English and parenting classes to migrant families and learning their stories. I got involved in a gang-prevention program working with young kids in a high crime and gang area, giving them a safe space to play and be kids and becoming a part of their stories,” said Aimee.
She also continued to volunteer in college, giving her time to the Big Brother Big Sister Program and eventually became the program director for the campus YMCA at Washington State University.
Suddenly, though, Aimee found herself needing help from others. Her world turned upside down.
“I left college, got married and started a family, and then my story shifted significantly,” shared Aimee. “My first husband died when our daughter was 2. I found myself a single mom, facing a mountain of bills, most of them medical, without having the means to provide the basics of food, diapers and gas for my car. I knew what it was like to scrounge and come up with just 22 cents, and that wasn’t going to cut it.
“I had many miracles that took place over the next several years that gave me hope, that kept me going through that difficult journey, paying off that mountain of bills, graduating from college with a double major in education and then remarrying my husband of now 18 years.”
Although she has always had a passion for volunteerism, Aimee now had a new perspective having been on the receiving end, and she receives great joy by paying it forward.
“I love that I get an opportunity to serve those in our community whose stories have shifted in ways they never planned or imagined. I love that I can encourage people right where they are at with clothes, food and maybe sometimes words and just being there,” said Aimee. “Many people have not experienced just being loved on unconditionally and not judged for where their journey has taken them. My journey, my family and Boundary County have given me that opportunity.”
Aimee said it is the stories of hope that keep her and other Hope House volunteers encouraged when they feel weary and tired.
“I love to share the stories … stories of the little girl walking in in just a diaper, trying on a dress and then watching herself twirl and twirl in our mirror. Of the woman dressed in oversized clothes, face drawn, starting over again, wanting a new beginning and she walks out of our bathroom dressed in nice clothes beaming. Of the young teen girls who have walked to Hope House praying we have toilet paper, they are out and ‘it’s just really hard to not have toilet paper.’ Of the young boy with sores on his feet because the shoes he has been wearing are two sizes too small … watching him try on a pair that not only fits but look cool, too. And of a veteran, who has been cold in a borrowed threadbare coat, sigh in comfort and warmth as he tries on a new warm coat.”
But it’s not just items and clothing that is given away at Hope House. “We have visitors, too, who occasionally just need a warm smile or hug instead of shoes or toilet paper,” said Aimee.
Thank you Aimee and all the volunteers who bring hope to others each and every day.