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Style · March 3, 2022

Healing with love: Giving hope to those who need it most

Luke Christopher
Left to right: Hope Heals volunteers Janet Zimmer, Lindsey Henderson (founder), Tami Doorly, Deborah Mohr, Sally Semple, Julie Shepard
By Sue Baldani
Photos by Luke Christopher

Fauquier native Lindsey Henderson has always had a heart for people who are struggling. So, she turned her feelings into action by becoming a critical resource for those in need in her community.

“I kept asking myself, ‘How can I meet these people and help them?’ Then, our church at the time gave us permission to do a one-time free clothing drive. I, along with other volunteers, spent about 10 hours sorting clothes and getting ready for the event — we came alive and were so energized by it.”

As people arrived for the big day, Henderson listened as they shared their stories. “I realized then that here they are! They’re coming to me!” she says.

Many of the shoppers were living in homeless shelters, while others were staying at local motels. “There were families of five and six people living in these tiny one-room rundown motels — it just broke my heart,” says Henderson. “They were so excited and thankful to have the opportunity to fill their bags for their families; it was heartwarming.”

She didn’t want it to end there. She saw how necessary these basic items were to so many people and set about creating a permanent place where they could come and shop for free. Hope Heals Community Free Store was founded in October 2019, and by January 2020, became a 5019(c)(3) nonprofit. Located in Warrenton, the 1,500-square-foot store is filled with a variety of goods.

“Having a permanent space to create an inviting atmosphere was an exciting venture to join,” says Tami Doorly, who took part in the original clothing drive and has been involved with Hope Heals from the very beginning. “It’s really important to me that it’s a beautiful and well-curated shopping experience. We wanted to have a welcoming place with the feel of a boutique. I find it very inspiring and enjoyable.”

Fortunately, some people Henderson knew from church committed to contributing money every month for the first two years to help pay the rent and utilities. “So going into it, we knew we at least had a couple of years of stability to obtain our nonprofit status and get the word out,” she says. “We’ve also received two grants from the Path Foundation; they’re awesome.”
Henderson’s husband, Brett, to whom she’s been married for 16 years, contributes financially to Hope Heals as well through his business, The Good Reverend Kombucha Co.

“Our sons, Ashton, age 15, and Tanner, 14, are currently enrolled in an online academy because they work part time in the company,” she says. The couple also has two other children, 10-year-old Piper, who attends Bradley Elementary School, and 3-year-old Charlie Ann, who attends Warrenton United Methodist Preschool. The family resides on a 20-acre farm with chickens, sheep, and gardens right in Warrenton.

On an average shopping day, Hope Heals serves about 50 people (over 600 per month) and between 60 - 70 bags of clothes go out the door on those days. In order to do this, they need volunteers to help out.

“No one gets paid at Hope Heals; we’re all volunteers,” says Henderson. “We’re open three days a week for shopping — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - but we’re in there the other days looking through every single bag that comes in the door, sorting, stocking, cleaning, and organizing. It does take a village — it’s not an easy feat to keep up with. Once the clothes are put out, they are gone in a flash.”

“The hours you put in working in the store and sorting clothes is really rewarding when you see shoppers find clothing they need for a variety of purposes,” says Doorly. “It motivates us to make the store better.”

Adds Janet Zimmer, another volunteer, “I believe in Lindsey's desire to bless the people in our community. She has a pure and beautiful heart when it comes to serving those in need. Her vision makes volunteering there a pleasure. We have become a closer community by being together in such a giving, open environment, looking out for and helping each other.”

In addition to clothing (there’s a preference for seasonal items and a great need for men’s and boys’ clothing), the store accepts shoes, accessories, household linens — which fly off the shelves — and baby gear.

For Henderson, Hope Heals is also about relationships. “The clothing is great; don’t get me wrong, I love that part, but I want to get to know these people. I want to get into their world and want to see how we can better help them above and beyond clothing and household items.”

And she and her volunteers do get to know the people they are helping. One of her favorite stories is about a gentleman who came in for work boots so he could go back to work and earn money for a deposit on a rental home. “He and his girlfriend were living in one of the local motels,” says Henderson. “We watched him transition from the motel into an actual house for him and his girlfriend.”

They also witnessed a single mom move out of homelessness. “She went from the Fauquier Family Shelter into transitional housing. She would shop with us once or twice a month and we would watch her little girls, who were precious. She eventually bought her own townhouse and afterwards wrote us a check for $500. Being a part of her story was neat.”

Another joyous occasion was their second annual toy drive in December. “We gave away 112 bags of toys!” she says. “It was incredible. And the amount of new toys we had was overwhelming.”

The Hope Heals Community Free Store is easily accessible for everyone, thanks to a new ramp that was added on in December. “John and Andrew Gripshover with Gripshover & Sons are the father and son team who built our ramp alongside Dominion Construction Group and Groundscapes,” says Henderson. “The first night we opened after it was installed, we had a little seven-year-old wheelchair-bound girl come into the store and we showered her with stuffed animals. We were all crying!”

The next project on their list involves its warehouse, a 1000-square-foot space that’s attached to the store. As it stands now, it can only be used for storage. “We’re hoping to heat and cool that space so we can sort there and actually expand the store side, because right now we’re doing both in the store,” she says.

In order to accomplish this, they need funding and/or an HVAC company willing to provide free or reduced labor and materials. She has faith it will happen.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the community this way,” says Henderson, with tears in her eyes. “Everyone who walks in the door is precious and wonderful and I’m just so blessed to be a part of it.”

To assist Hope Heals with its amazing mission, go to hopehealsfreestore.org to donate funds and/or volunteer.

***

This story originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Warrenton Lifestyle. Click here to browse an e-edition.
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