Circle of Hope

year 2, week 2: this week i'm gonna... give dignity to the homeless

Kathy's daughter, Kassie

Kathy's daughter, Kassie

When Kathy was homeless and staying at Project Hope Shelter with her then 22-month-old daughter, Kassie, she looked forward to deliveries from Circle of Hope. In a letter, she explained that by regularly delivering high-quality new or gently used clothing, Circle of Hope made it feel like shopping when the moms gathered to go through the donations together.

Kathy wrote of the guilt parents feel when they find themselves unable to provide necessities for their children and said Circle of Hope removed that worry. Just before Kassie’s second birthday, Kathy shared with a Circle of Hope volunteer driver that they were moving out of the shelter and into their own apartment that week. She thanked Circle of Hope for being a vital part of their journey to a better life.

Kathy’s story highlights the core of Circle of Hope’s mission – promoting health and dignity and bringing hope to the most vulnerable members of the community.  As Barbara Waterhouse, founder of Circle of Hope explains, "At Circle of Hope we always strive to provide dignified clothing and necessities with the extra touch of compassion that tells a homeless child, woman, or man that they are not forgotten."

Circle of Hope volunteers with donations

Circle of Hope volunteers with donations

Waterhouse founded Circle of Hope in 2008 after she did some volunteer work with a local homeless shelter. She saw the extremely high demand for services and decided to do more. "I saw homelessness growing in Boston’s economic recession," she states, "and I decided it was time to do something bigger." Since then, the need for services for the homeless population has only increased. In 2015 alone, there was a 25% increase in the number of homeless families in Boston. 

On a practical level, Circle of Hope provides clothing, but dignity is really at the core of their mission. Their Dignity Program distributes Dignity Bags full of toiletries and necessities to 20 partner shelters and clinics. "It speaks to the very essence of human dignity to be able to wash [oneself] and be clean, to have clean underwear, socks," says Waterhouse.


Circle of Hope Boston is headquartered in Needham, MA and collects, sorts, and distributes new and gently used clothing, linens, and toiletries for individuals and families living in homeless shelters or in transition. In 2016, Circle of Hope has helped over 4,000 individuals.

Their mission is to provide homeless people in and around Boston with clothing and necessities in order to preserve and enhance overall health and personal dignity. By continually providing seasonally appropriate clothing and basic toiletries to carefully vetted organizations, Circle of Hope gives the most vulnerable members of the community the opportunity to protect themselves from the dangers of illness and disease that come from being homeless in New England.

Circle of Hope operates two specific programs:

  • The Dignity Program distributes Dignity Bags full of clothing, toiletries, and necessities to 20 partner shelters and clinics.
  • The “Welcome Baby Bags” program provides supplies for newborns whose mothers are homeless.

Family flags of gratitude at the family event  (p hoto credit: Caitrin Dunphy)

Family flags of gratitude at the family event (photo credit: Caitrin Dunphy)

The volunteers are indeed what makes Circle of Hope's extensive outreach possible. Circle of Hope recently held its first ever family event to benefit the homeless. The goal was to inspire entire families, including preschool and elementary aged children, to give back to their communities through volunteerism. The event was also intended to help families talk to their children about difficult topics, like homelessness, in an age appropriate way.

Over 300 people attended the event, where children and their families went through six stations, each geared towards helping the homeless in some way. Children helped assemble toiletry kits, decorate super hero capes for homeless kids, decorate Dignity Bags to collect clothing donations, decorate piggy banks, and also decorate family flags with messages of gratefulness. The piggy banks were especially meaningful, providing a way for children to collect money throughout the rest of the year that they could then donate, continuing the dialog of helping others.

Children decorating piggy banks  (photo credit: Caitrin Dunphy)

Children decorating piggy banks (photo credit: Caitrin Dunphy)


"The real beauty of the event," states organizer Clair Windsor, "is that it taught kids that they could make a real difference."

Notes for this week:

  • In Boston, the coldest days of the year are usually January 17th and 18th. Thank you to Circle of Hope for helping those who need warmth in the cold!
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor the creation of approximately 25 Dignity Bags.
  • For more information regarding Circle of Hope, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to Circle of Hope.

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