Woman connects less fortunate with donors

Vicki McGee directs HOPE of the Grand Valley, a nonprofit organization that offers direct help with specific needs to people who have fallen on hard times. She publishes their stories online, and donors often respond.

Vicki McGee never underestimates the power of a story.

The director of the nonprofit organization HOPE of the Grand Valley has witnessed the sway of the written word, especially when those words come from people in need.

A single father who works full-time and cares for his parents just moved from Fruita to Grand Junction and needs a clothes washer, dryer and furniture.

A mother of three children finally escapes an abusive relationship, abandoning all of her possessions when she left her home for good. She received help with furniture, but she now needs a washer and a dryer.

She has left many times before but always went back as she had nowhere to go with three children, according to the narrative on HOPE of the Grand Valley’s website. But this time, the narrative says, he threw her and her three children out with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

McGee knows there are plenty of people in the community who want to help the less fortunate. But the stories, often written in the words of those who are hurting, help donors visualize those needs and empathize with people who have fallen on hard times.

“It does seem like when I send out those email stories, I get better results,” she said. “I’ve found myself in that situation. I’ve been there before. The person does not want to be judged. It’s amazing. People want to give. They just don’t know how or where. They may not want to tithe every month to a church.”

Indeed, McGee got into the business of helping others after working as an outreach coordinator for Canyon View Vineyard Church.

She saw firsthand how people needed help but sometimes were hesitant to enter the church setting, thinking they would be judged by others or required to attend services.

McGee loved her job, but she felt called by God to quit in order to serve others without having to work through the church model.

Even now McGee helps people “fill in the gaps” with help from a number of area churches. It’s easier, she said, to ask a variety of churches to help the needy without being officially affiliated with one denomination.

“I have more contacts now and more people that trust me,” she said.

McGee has been operating HOPE of the Grand Valley for the past two years. With a handful of volunteers, she attempts to help people with specific needs. That usually means coordinating the pickup and delivery of donated goods. About 40 families were “adopted” by locals this year, providing the less fortunate a happier Christmas.

Also this past winter, McGee coordinated a large-scale mattress donation thanks to Hampton Inn. Hill & Homes Storage then donated storage space for items. People who qualified came to retrieve the nearly new mattresses, McGee said.

“I think people just sleep on the floor,” she said. “I got a call from one woman who said she sleeps on the floor of her trailer, and her son sleeps on a torn-up mattress on the floor. She was working an $8.50 (per hour) job, and new mattresses were not within their reach.”

McGee knows the word is getting out about how her organization can help. Some service providers, when all other agencies are tapped, direct needy folks McGee’s way.

“They say, ‘Tell Vicki your story,’ ” McGee said.

Publishing the story of a homeless woman who needed a place to recover after having surgery tugged on a donor’s heartstrings. The donor came up with money to buy the woman a couple nights in a motel.

Lately, McGee has been on call, waiting to hear whether homeless folks who live by the Colorado or Gunnison rivers will have to evacuate because of rising water.

If so, McGee will help coordinate moving belongings to storage units until the water recedes.

McGee’s work is strictly voluntary, but she hopes one day to locate a grant to pay herself or other staff members. She applied recently for help through the United Way.

With money, she would next help needy folks fix nonworking vehicles, a roadblock that often keeps people from gaining self-sufficiency. After that, well into the future, she dreams of running some sort of temporary housing program for people down on their luck, or maybe a safe haven for single parents.

“I know somebody out there wants to give me a house,” she said wistfully, gazing toward a nearby window.

Applications to receive help through HOPE of the Grand Valley are available through a number of local service agencies.

For information, call McGee at 778-4880, or visit the organization’s website, http://www.hopegv.org, or its Facebook page.


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