Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pink Hands of Hope

Figure 1
     While driving down Trindle Road in Mechanicsburg, PA, various different shops line each side of the lengthy, narrow stretch. However, one store in particular called  Pink Hands of Hope Thrift Store stands out among the rest. "We're located on East Trindle Road. You won't miss us," explains Brian Gaughan, the Co-Founder of Pink Hands of Hope, when interested customers first contact his establishment. Brian’s undeniable charisma and enthusiasm compels most callers to pay a visit to the store. Once they arrive at the store they find Brian’s brief, straight-forward directions were accurate. As the patrons pull into the small parking lot, a supersized white and pink adirondack chair sitting beside a large sign with two  handprints, each one a different shade of pink, lets them know they have arrived at the correct destination. (Figure 1) From the vertical pink stripes adorning the white cinderblock exterior, to the minute details such as the pink paint splattered rocks surrounding the shrubbery near the entrance, the appearance of the store is pleasing  to the eye and has the ability to awaken the girly girl inside of anyone. The front display window decorated on the outside with pink accents encases beautiful wedding gowns. Hanging inside of the front window is also a bright flashing sign letting bargain hunters know that Pink Hands of Hope is open and ready for business.
     Inside of the store, a friendly, middle-aged woman stands behind the counter greeting customers with a warm welcome.  Racks full of sweaters, jackets, jeans, dresses, shoes, and every other wardrobe essential span the length of the alternating rosy pink and white cinderblock walls. (Figure 2) Other racks consisting of baby clothes, medical scrubs, and wedding dresses camouflage the neutral, washed out carpeting. Not only does the store sell clothing, but they also sell books, jewelry, purses, furniture, home goods, and holiday decorations. Selling these other items broadens their customer base. The aroma reminds me of my grandparent's basement, stale and musty yet filled with character. The woman tending the counter treats every shopper with such respect, and makes the atmosphere very customer orientated. However, she is not the only one with this attitude. Brian, an average height, gray-haired man, is just as welcoming and willing to share the mission of Pink Hands of Hope.

Figure 2

Figure 3
     On June 1, 2009, Pink Hands of Hope opened in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania after Brian's wife conquered her battle with breast cancer. After Brian's wife endured four major surgeries and chemotherapy over a span of eleven months, they began looking for financial help. "You see pink ribbons all over the place so there's got to be help out there, right?" Brian hypothetically asks. Unfortunately, Brian found that no one was able to help him while his family was knee-deep in medical bills. Brian explains, "I'm middle class with three daughters to support so I started down the path to set this up." Brian and his wife chose to start their non-profit organization, Pink Hands of Hope, to help survivors and women fighting not only breast cancer, but all types of cancer. "Any women that comes in our door that's fighting cancer, we give them free wigs, free clothing, free chemo caps, free prosthetics, and free bras". The sense of pride and satisfaction is tangible as Brian speaks of the work he does with the women who come into his shop. Last year in 2014, Pink Hands of Hope helped 227 women. The ability and plethora of resources to help that many cancer patients and survivors out of such a small store astonishes all who hear the story of Pink Hands of Hope. When patrons and visitors of the store express their admiration of all his work, Brian leads them outside the store to show them the "Wall of Hope." (Figure 3) One side of the building consists of 500 cinderblocks, where all the survivors that Bryan, his family, and volunteers have helped place their handprints along with their names. "The goal is that when somebody comes in and they say, I just got diagnosed with cancer, I'm going to take her out here and show her all the people who beat the disease before her so it offers her the hope that she can beat the disease too." The combination of Brian's charisma as he spoke and seeing all the names of the survivors united is inspiring and makes myself and others want to know more about how we can help.
     Pink Hands of Hope mainly depends on the help of volunteers to run the store on a daily basis. While Brian raises money, gets sponsorships, picks up donations, and organizes social events, middle-aged retired volunteers work behind the desk cashing out sales and interacting with customers. From time to time, student volunteers from high schools in the area come in to sort clothes and organize the store. Young kids assist Brian with advertising through Facebook and other social media sites. Since Brian established Pink Hands of Hope as a non-profit organization, they do not have the funds for advertising. Therefore, the majority of their business and exposure come from Facebook, word of mouth, good location, and church partnerships. Churches also hold clothing drives to collect donations for the store. Consignment stores donate clothing once the consignment period ends, and the public drop off donations because the store lacks funds to purchase donation bins. These are just a few examples of how crucial the community's help and involvements is to allow Pink Hands of Hope to continue helping women defeat cancer for years to come.

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