Christmas came early for Betty Begg-Brooks and the volunteers at a not-for-profit organization in Charlottetown.
Ernie Hudson, the minister responsible for social development and housing, arrived Wednesday with the keys to a used van that the volunteers with the Gifts From the Heart store on Spring Lane can use to transport everything from food to furniture.
“Unreal,’’ said a clearly overwhelmed Begg-Brooks, searching for the right words.
Gifts From the Heart opened its doors in September, devoted to low-income Islanders, those going through temporary hardships and the homeless. The store gives everything away for free — clothing, shoes, items for the house, food, furniture and more.
Need to know
- Gifts From the Heart is located at 58 Spring Lane in Charlottetown, between St. Peters Road and Kensington Road
- The not-for-profit organization welcomes donations of items that people need such as clothes, shoes, items for the house, furniture and more
- The store is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Call 902-628-6871 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Until Hudson showed up with the van, Begg-Brooks had been using her car. She ran the operation out of a spare room in her home until she secured the spot on Spring Lane.
“I’ve put two brand-new vehicles in the junkyard because of the heavy loads, produce and furniture,’’ Begg-Brooks told The Guardian. “It means I can use my car to go to meetings . . . . (With the new minivan), we can take the seats out and pick up furniture and whatnot.’’
Hudson said a little over a month ago he and Begg-Brooks had a conversation about the organization’s needs, including a van. As fortune would have it, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal was getting set to auction some government vehicles off.
“Of course, the wheels started turning between Betty and myself, and I said ‘I’ll see if we might be able to get one of those vans pulled from the auction’, but I couldn’t promise anything,’’ Hudson said.
They found one, a 2014 Dodge Caravan, and made sure it received a complete safety check before dropping it off on Wednesday.
Hudson said being able to help Begg-Brooks out felt great, explaining how important the work she does is.
“I’ve been here for the last 25 minutes,’’ the minister said, referring to dropping the van off, “and there is just continuously people coming and going and (volunteers) helping what we would have to call the most vulnerable.’’
Begg-Brooks and her staff of 71 volunteers are busy in the store daily. The store, which measures 4,754 square feet, operates Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
When asked what drives her to go seven days a week, she said, “I do what I do because when I was a child I knew what hunger was; I knew what having nothing was and that never left me.’’