Using donations and volunteer labor, for the past four years Trials For Hope has been pursuing its mission “to encourage individuals struggling to get through the day to have a better quality of life… by assisting them with a few basic needs that are often taken for granted.”
Trials For Hope founder Jonathan Gray has developed a community of supporters, donors and networked organizations that help with the mission and to whom he provides updates to on a weekly basis via email.
Gray says he started Trials for Hope when an organization he volunteered for lost funding for a program that helped to distribute toiletries to those in need. He took the left over items and helped to distribute them at community meals and shelters. In doing so he discovered a need – and began to solicit donations of personal care items to put in packets to distribute to those in need in Lakewood and on the Near West Side of Cleveland. Gray says food stamps do not cover these personal care items and people on limited budgets were often forced to forgo personal care.
Trials for Hope now distributes up to 700 personal care packs a month. The personal care packs include: toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, comb, soap, shampoo and conditioner. Gray says Trials for Hope volunteers gather at an apartment he shares with his father in Lakewood to stuff the personal care packs and get them ready for distribution.
In the course of gathering donations Trials for Hope has developed a network of about 25 community organizations, schools and churches that help with donations and volunteers. Trials for Hope over the course of time become a clearinghouse. It helps to collect excess donations from some organizations and distributing them at other organizations or locations with a need. Trials For Hope in turn, helps recruit volunteers for organizations that donate excess goods to Trials For Hope.
Trials For Hope now rents a truck four days and pays a driver a stipend each week to help pick up and distribute donations. Trials For Hope, now in addition to distributing the personal care packs also is collecting and distributing food, clothing and medical supplies.
The organization now is able to distribute up to 2,500 pounds of vegetables per month to treatment centers, seniors and the homeless; give 70 food bags per month to shut-ins and people in need and distributes donated medical supplies to those with a need.
In the course of its work Trials For Hope is also helping to give back to organizations that have helped its mission. Gray says St. Herman’s House of Hospitality has generously donated goods and food when they have more than they can use. In turn, Trials For Hope has helped recruit volunteers from nearby Edna’s House to volunteer to serve a meal one day a week at St. Herman’s.
Trials For Hope continues to expand its services in respond to need. It recently started to distribute personal care packs to families with children when the need was discovered among families participating in Denison UCC’s programs. Denison UCC is one of the churches that has helped Trials for Hope with volunteers and donations.
Trials For Hope has also collaborated with Restored Paths Ministry to visit homeless camps to distribute personal care packs and other items.
Gray says seniors at the Westernly Apartments have begun donating blankets they make.
To keep its mission going, Trials For Hope is dependent on fundraisers, sponsors and donations. Gray hopes to recruit more sponsors. He would like to be able to add washcloths to the toiletry bags, and offer toilet paper to those who need it. More volunteers are also needed to help with the camp outreach ministry.
Long-term goals for Trials For Hope include securing a space they can call home, getting a secretary, a grant writer, a treasurer and a board of trustees. Currently, the program is a nonprofit program with St. Paul’s Community Outreach Center serving as its fiscal agent. For more information about the program, to volunteer, or become a sponsor, call Jonathan Gray at 216-296-3374. You can also visit the program on Facebook at: Trials For Hope, or go to the website at: TrialsForHope.Weebly.com.