BELLA VISTA – Audrey’s House of Hope was originally named after a baby girl born to a mother who needed help from her community. The photo of baby Audrey inspired a small group of Bella Vistan to start a nonprofit group to help other pregnant women. Over the years the organization has changed, and now a new incarnation of Audrey is unfolding.
âWe wanted to help the people in Bella Vista, where we live,â said incoming president, Terry Sage. In the past, Audrey’s has donated part of its profits to other organizations in the region with similar missions. From now on, all funds will remain with Bella Vista and Audrey will no longer be limited to working with pregnant women but will be able to help in different types of emergencies.
The Forest Hills Boulevard resale store opened in 2015 to fund the nonprofit group, and it was a success. The store accepts women’s clothing, as well as household items and furniture. Store manager Kristy Danna knows how to assess a wide variety of gifts, said vice chairman of the board Jan Pruitt. She recognizes the value of each item.
Sage and Pruitt are both new to the board and both started as volunteers. Pruitt started with pickups and deliveries when he realized that the volunteers were mostly older women who needed help lifting heavy objects.
Sage, a Kansas City transplant, had served on similar boards. His wife shopped at Audrey’s and Danna recruited him.
The new board, Danna said, is made up of clients and friends from the nonprofit group. The former board members were happy to hand over responsibility, she said, and the new board chose the new leadership for the group.
People hear about Audrey through word of mouth, Danna said. Recently, when a house burned down in Bella Vista, a neighbor came over to ask if she could help. Even though the residents had insurance, Danna knew Audrey could fill needs while they waited for their claim to be processed.
The board is developing a grant form for those in need, but for now, they are dependent on Danna’s judgment.
âKristy knows everyone,â Sage said. She keeps track of the people she helps, he added. Often times, people are referred by a church or a neighbor, he explained.
âIt’s a lot of responsibility,â Pruitt said of Danna’s job. “No one knows how important she was.”
Danna doesn’t like forcing people to fill out a lot of paperwork in the middle of a crisis. Instead, she relies on referrals from churches or firefighters, or neighbors.
Eventually, the board could formalize relationships with churches and other organizations that know who needs help, Sage said.
No donation is wasted, said Pruitt. If something is given that Audrey cannot use, he finds a home for it. Clothes that don’t sell are carefully packaged and forwarded to Helping Hands, he said. Other organizations may receive some of the household items that Audrey’s cannot resell.
Some donations do not arrive in stores. They are stored in the warehouse and are passed on to people with urgent needs. For example, people who start over after a disaster may come to Audrey for basic furniture.
People don’t always see the need in Bella Vista, Sage said, but many retirees are trying to live on a fixed income and fail to make ends meet, even with a part-time job.
The store is run primarily by volunteers. Over the years, they have become friends and often end the week with an informal reunion after the store closes, Pruitt said.
Recently, they held a booth at the Farmer’s Market to recruit even more volunteers. They also sold raffle tickets with an Audrey shopping spree as a prize.
âThere was a lot of interest,â he said.
The new board is still “fine-tuning” its approach, Sage said. But the board believes there is a need that it can meet even though board members appreciate the experience of helping.
Photo Submitted Kristi Danna runs the resale store that funds Audrey’s, a non-profit organization dedicated to Bella Vistans in need.