The Hope Chest and Family Counseling Center in Red Bluff
By Melissa Mendonca
Trunk of Treasures
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Alexis Leclair
AT THE CORNER of Breckenridge and Grant streets in Red Bluff stands a behemoth of a thrift store beloved by the community not only for its sweet deals, but the purpose it serves its neighbor, the Family Counseling Center.
Both the Hope Chest and Family Counseling Center were founded in 1965 to meet the counseling needs of community members, particularly those with low income or without insurance. “We do all kinds of counseling as far as working with families and teens, children and adults,” says Director Hilary Lindauer Vasey. “A lot are covered by Medi-Cal, but a lot of them are not and fall through the cracks. We see them at a very reduced fee, $10 to $20 a session.”
“We’ve been in business 53 years,” says Lucretia Betts, a 14-year volunteer at the Hope Chest and president of its Board of Directors. Betts’ mother, Maude Hermetet, was a Hope Chest volunteer until her death at age 96. “When I retired from Blue Shield, she insisted that I have something to do,” Betts says with a laugh. “Even though I have nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.”
“We’re like a family,” she says of the team. A few members have been there since the 1980s and have 30 years in as volunteers. It’s more than a familial connection to the place that motivates her, however. “I understand from past experience how difficult it can be to get help if you’re very low income,” she says.
“There’s a huge need for counseling in Tehama County,” adds Ann Houghtby, who sits on the boards of both organizations and serves as the Hope Chest’s treasurer. “There’s not a lot of options for people, especially low income.” Government services are strained and chronically understaffed, as is typical of many rural communities. Private services are also lacking and usually too expensive for people who are financially stressed.
The Hope Chest owns the building it is housed in and the building next door, which it provides rent-free to the Family Counseling Center to provide services. It is able to maintain the building and offer $2,500 per month to the counseling center so it may see low-income clients. The two organizations were created simultaneously so the Family Counseling Center could always have a source of income. “It was very forward thinking,” says Vasey.
“It’s a good relationship,” adds Houghtby. “We work closely together.”
The Hope Chest’s service to the community doesn’t stop with the Family Counseling Center, however. It’s become a place for victims of fire and other tragedies to pick up free goods to get them back on their feet. They recently outfitted a man down on his luck to attend court. The store has also become a job training center for CalWORKs participants and select people on probation to complete their community service hours. The Hope Chest team takes particular pride in a CalWORKs volunteer they mentored who recently found full-time employment at a local grocery store.
This time of year, the big excitement of the Hope Chest is its Christmas Boutique, which opens this month in a large space on the second floor which is closed to the public otherwise. “We have one person that does nothing but Christmas items year-round,” says Betts, who eagerly awaits the boutique’s opening each year. The volunteer assesses all holiday décor donations, mends as necessary, and sets up a display worthy of the season. Ugly Christmas sweaters have become popular in recent years, and the boutique has a selection that won’t break the bank.
The Hope Chest is also a popular source of books, clothing, toys and DVDs. Many collectibles come through the shop via clear-outs of estates. “Most of the donations are in good condition,” says Betts. A volunteer checks everything with electrical parts, and makes repairs as needed.
Symbiosis seems to be a theme of the two agencies, as well as their place in the community. Donors to the Hope Chest often find themselves shopping there as well, so it serves as a place to discard what is unnecessary as well as find what you need. Says Houghtby, “Whenever someone’s shopping there, they’re helping someone potentially get the therapy they need while getting a good bargain.” •
The Hope Chest • 1359 Grant St., Red Bluff
Family Counseling Center • 1347 Grant St., Red Bluff