“One day a mom walked over with her toddler in only a diaper. The mom slipped a dress over her head and the little girl just looked at herself in the mirror and started twirling and squealing with delight,” recalls Aimee Christopherson, the volunteer director for Hope House. It’s moments like these that remind us that a helping hand can transform a person’s life.
Hope House started in Boundary County doing private deliveries to schools and anonymous doorstep drops with items families and individual students needed to live. After a large clothing donation, the organization moved into a local church. “I knew that having something like this in a church would be an obstacle for many who have been hurt by churches over the years,” says Aimee. “I also knew that Hope House was intended to be a collaborative community ministry, so I began looking for a community space.”
She found one above Community Action, but the stairs and limited parking proved difficult, and when Community Action moved, Hope House closed down for several years and went back to serving children through school deliveries. It was then that they became drawn to Moyie Springs, and in particular, the trailer parks where Hope House now resides. During the time they had been making deliveries to schools, they had noticed many of the children in need were from this area.
One winter, Aimee’s church sponsored soup kitchens in several of the empty trailers, where they handed out hygiene products from Hope House. The following summer, Hope House sponsored a free barbecue to hand out school supplies.
“As I walked through the neighborhood to hand out flyers, I noticed how many places did not have doors,” remembers Aimee. “I saw kids sitting in a car on blocks while shouting could be heard coming from inside their trailer. I stepped up onto dilapidated porches that were clearly unsafe. At the barbecue, a few adults came to get food, but mostly we served kids. Kids walking over for food, kids going back to get their siblings, friends and more kids. They piled their plates high, and then again, and then again, hungry kids.”
The owner of the trailer park offered for Hope House to make their home right there—and they did. It took time for people to feel comfortable stopping by, but slowly it grew, and Hope House is deeply involved with the community now. “The neighbor kids come often now to try on clothes, to find a gift for a loved one’s birthday. We love that people can just walk there, and we love the community we get to be a part of,” says Aimee.
Hope House serves more than 300 families in Boundary County, providing basic hygiene products like toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes/toothpaste, laundry detergent and dish soap, as well as clothing, and a small food box once a month. Some families use Hope House from time to time as they experience unplanned expenses or prohibitive housing costs. “Many of our clients are seniors, on disability or working hourly wage jobs with no benefits. It is hard for people to have enough to cover basic needs when they have a large portion of their income going to rent and utilities,” says Aimee.
She has noticed over the years that paying for basic necessities—like laundry when you don’t have access to a washer and dryer—is a huge expense for those with limited resources. Hope House allows people to do two loads of laundry per month at their facilities and offers their shower for people without access to running or hot water. “We have had people use our shower as well as our tub to bathe their kids when they don’t have other options, either because they live without access to these resources or they have had their utilities turned off,” says Aimee .
“During the 10 years we have been serving Boundary County, one of the biggest obstacles we see is people getting access to safe, affordable housing,” according to Aimee. “We serve hard-working individuals and families whose housing costs prevent them from getting the traction they need to no longer need our support.”
Hope House is open Tuesdays from 12:30 to 4pm and Saturdays from 1:30 to 4pm and is entirely volunteer run. One of their biggest challenges is keeping up with the donations, as they do not have the space or resources to adequately sort and clean unwashed donated clothing.
One way the community can help is donating clean clothing in small bags or boxes that are easy to sort and store. “Hope House is thankful for the food, hygiene, financial and clothing donations that come in and help us serve our community,” says Aimee.
If you are interested in making a donation to Hope House or volunteering, please call Aimee at 208.267.5105.