Friends of Femoir ~ Heather McGuigan

Heather McGuigan is the founder and director of HopeTotes, a national not-for-profit organization that provides everyday essentials to women in need.

When and why did you start Hope Totes?
I started HopeTotes in 2005 after working a promotional gig at a trade show. I saw a lot of booths giving away/throwing out a ton of beauty products and thought, “Something could be done here to really help people. Something low cost, something with a direct impact and something lots of people could be a part of.”

What are your roles and responsibilities there?
At the moment…everything! Over the years I have had the privilege of working with some incredible people who have elevated and expanded this organization. What I love are these kinds of joint projects – where people take the experience or opportunity they have and use it to help those around them.

What are the challenges involved?
One challenge that I have recently faced is getting our Totes to a few remote communities where they are desperately needed. Trucking routes, available space and scheduling has been tricky. I am still working on it!

What are the rewards?
The reward is knowing that someone, at a critical point in their lives, knows that we care. To provide the basic hygiene items that not only improve self esteem but helps to alleviate a financial burden when money is so tight. The other part is uniting communities to volunteer in simple ways. Sometimes volunteering can be hard to commit to. Where do I start? How much time can I give? A project like HopeTotes is simple, direct and proves that small acts of kindness can change the world.

Who are your clients?
Our clients are typically the residents of women’s shelters across Canada. As women arrive, fleeing abuse and poverty, they receive a Tote with everything they need to feel clean and cared for as they embark on the difficult recovery process.

How can the public get involved?
Information on volunteering can be found on our website. The holiday season is the biggest for giving, and we invite people to make some Totes with their family and friends and donate them to a local shelter. We provide you with a how-to sheet and some of our beautiful, handmade Totes to fill!! Financial donations are also greatly appreciated.

What does the organization have on tap for the rest of 2021, and going into 2022?
My hope for 2022 is to get our wheels churning again! A lot of restrictions were put in place in terms of in-kind donations, so I am excited to begin filling and assisting HopeTote donations across Canada.