An inside look at successes and further needs
by Gloria Welton
Gifts from the Heart is a not-for-profit charity that is meeting the needs of low-income Islanders or those going through temporary hardships. The organization forms many partnerships as it reaches out to those in need.
Betty Begg-Brooks, who founded this place of hope six years ago out of her home and runs it with the help of a board of directors, says she is thankful to everyone involved as the service evolves.
Since COVID-19 hit, she says the need for their services have tripled. Currently, they serve 947 families and feed over 2,500 people. “We strive to enrich their lives through the most trying of times by meeting their needs, and showing them compassion, love, and kindness.”
They strive to help people who are homeless, those reintegrating into the community, and newcomers with essentials needed to help achieve a better quality of life. They collect, buy, and deliver food, clothing, personal items, furniture, household items, toys, and more to give to others at no cost to the recipient. They serve the entire Island, tip to tip.
The Employment Journey was approached to do this article to help get the word out about the need for further support for this organization, in particular the fundraising required to purchase a new van.
It certainly is in our mandate to partner with community members working towards strengthening and supporting PEI residents to help them reach their goals, and employment is among Islanders’ top priorities.
Inflation has hit us all, especially those who are just barely getting by. Now the pandemic has placed more hardship on youth, families, and many others with low incomes. It is my pleasure to provide a look at the incredible work done by Gifts from the Heart, and to spread the word about their need for a bigger van to continue meeting the needs of the community.
Betty has partnered with many in the community to expand the services and has built a volunteer base of over 70 people. She also commented on what an honor it is to host youth volunteering on site, who are working towards the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
“I have learned in my over 55 years serving our community that some of life’s fondest memories and learning can take place in the most unlikely of places.
“We have been on an incredible journey,” says Betty. “Since 2019, we have served clients out of a 5,000 sq ft leased space in Charlottetown. The lease is paid by our provincial government, but we are responsible for the overhead. Now we need to double the size of our space, and we are working towards this expansion.”
Gifts from the Heart is run solely by volunteers under the direction of Betty as CEO, who is also a volunteer. “Poverty is a community responsibility, and we have to work together to address this growing concern,” says Betty.
Partnerships in the community to help those in need
Here is a snapshot of some of the connections Gifts from the Heart has made:
- Liaise with the Provincial Correctional Centre outreach, Housing First, Peers Alliance, Lennon House, Anderson House, Cornwall Food Pantry, Blooming House, The Mount, special needs groups, Community Outreach Centre, and Fitzroy Centre, to name a few.
- Helping families referred through the Provincial Social Assistance Program to help offset costs of those on financial assistance.
- Liaise with the local Red Cross, helping meet the needs of those encountering temporary hardships such as fire and death.
- Work with the Salvation Army by sharing resources to help families they serve.
- Work closely with the John Howard Society (Wraparound program).
- Work in conjunction with the Native Council of PEI to help ensure that the basic needs of Indigenous peoples are met.
- Work with staff at Career Development Services assisting their clients.
- Volunteer at the Farm Centre Legacy Garden to help distribute thousands of pounds of fresh produce to families.
- Provide food to Harvest House for their clients.
- Work in conjunction with Second Harvest.
- Deliver food to two safe houses for women, helping 13 mothers and 12 children each week.
- Deliver food to 108 seniors living in four low-income housing establishments and many others in need.
- Help provide appropriate clothing to individuals entering or returning to the workforce.
- Work with Santa’s Angels with their Christmas project.
- Work with 100 Women Who Care, a Charlottetown organization that collects and then donates money to assist non-profit charities and others.
- Work with 4 S Catering, 4 Love 4 Care, who give back to the community by providing a meal to the hungry the last Sunday of each month.
Those who could benefit from their services
“As we ask for help from the community to expand our services, we certainly want those in need to come to us and benefit from our services,” says Betty. Islanders in need are offered free clothing, food, toys, household furniture, and personal items.
The food pantry is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and for emergencies as needed. No one in need is turned away.
For more information, call 902-628-6871.
To donate and/or volunteer
“We have had tremendous support from the communities, companies, and individuals of PEI in the form of generous donations on a regular basis, and we are so grateful,” says Betty.
If you would like to support their work, you can donate and/or sign up to volunteer by calling 902-628-6871.
Donations for the van will be gladly accepted at Gifts from the Heart or dropped off at Red Fox Flooring Warehouse, 167 Minna Jane Drive, Unit 6, Royalty Power Mall (former Sears building) Charlottetown. Call 902-626-3338.