Haley Havard has always lent a hand to those in need. The Annapolis teen, 14, had participated in charity drives for years and loved helping others, so in 2015, she founded Haley’s Helping Hands, a 503 nonprofit that provides clothing to those in need.
“My family had always done gift and donation drives during the holidays and my school emphasizes community service, but I wanted to do more,” Havard says. Haley’s Helping Hands provides clothing and shoes to needy families through direct requests on its website and Facebook page. Havard works to fulfill the requests and ships everything for free to its recipients.
Haley’s Helping Hands was established in 2015, though Havard conceived the idea several years before. “I had the idea for Haley’s Helping Hands when I was nine,
but my parents wanted me to wait until I was older,” Havard says.
In the summer before seventh grade, Havard visited local shelters to inquire about their donation needs. She began collecting clothing, shoes and accessories that she would store in the family’s garage. “Through my shelter visits, word-of-mouth spread and things really started to take off,” she says.
Harvard worked with a lawyer to set up Haley’s Helping Hands as a nonprofit and they developed a website that serves as the main point of contact for needy families to request help. As donations increased, Havard realized she needed a dedicated space to organize donations, so her family built a shed in their backyard that houses clothing racks and donation bins.
“My family gives me a lot of support and I’m so lucky to have that,” says Havard of her parents and three siblings. Although Havard’s mom helps with transporting boxes to the post office, Havard does all the sorting and packing to fulfill requests herself.
“Haley is a force. She always has been,” says her mother, Lee Ann Havard. “When she asked to start Haley’s Helping Hands, I worried about whether she could balance it with school, but she has shown me over and over again that she can handle it. She truly believes in what she is doing.”
The Key School freshman spends each weekend answering emails, sorting clothing and boxing up shipments. She expects to be even busier in the months ahead. “Winter—January in particular—is our busiest time. Many families need warm clothing and we are always in need of coats,” Havard says. “Most requests are for children’s clothing but I try to provide clothes for the entire family,” Havard says, noting that she also likes to include extras like accessories, toiletries and socks in every box.
Between November and February of last year, Havard shipped 110 boxes to different families. Most of the families served by Haley’s Helping Hands are in Maryland, but she has shipped packages as far as Ohio. Havard has also provided clothing to an orphanage in India after a local friend’s child was adopted from the orphanage. More recently, Havard has partnered with the Annapolis Immigration Justice Network to provide shoes and clothing to newly families new to the states.
In order to keep up with requests, Haley’s Helping Hands is in constant need of donations. “There are often three to four people in the family that I am trying to help,” Harvard says, ”and I want to send enough clothing for everyone. There is a constant need for clothing and money for shipping.”
Havard spends anywhere from four to eight hours per week on Haley’s Helping Hands, a feat she balances with her school work, soccer and basketball. She is also an active member of her school community. “Haley is without a doubt a leader,” says Key School teacher Kate Junkins. “She creates an inspiring vision of the future; where kindness, empathy and hard work are at the center of everything she does.”
As Haley’s Helping Hands approaches its third winter assisting families, Havard reflects on what she has received in the process.
“I have definitely realized how every single thing I have is so valuable. I see these people reaching out to me because they need help and I’m happy to be able to make a difference. It’s a big time commitment, but it is truly worth it.”
To donate, visit haleyshelpinghandsmd.org.
For a comprehensive list of places to donate your time, goods and services during the holiday season, check here