Stacks of dishes, appliances, home decor, and towels have taken over the front of Patricia Gougeon’s house on Jackson’s east side.
All of these items are ready to go at a moment’s notice for anyone in need.
“We all deserve the comforts of home,” Gougeon said.
That belief is the driving force behind the local non-profit Our Neighbor’s Keeper.
Gougeon is the organization’s Executive Director.
Working with a board and volunteers, she helps people with the transition from homeless to happy home.
“After getting a referral from a local agency or community member, we work with clients on what they need for their new home. I do a needs assessment to help fill those needs,” Gougeon said.
From there, clients pick out items from Gougeon’s house or furniture from the non-profit’s storage unit.
“They put their selections in our cargo van and unload it at their house so it’s almost like they’re moving. It empowers them. Instead of getting a hand out, they’re getting a hand up,” Gougeon said.
She says the people they work with come from all types of situations.
They help the homeless who are getting back on their feet, but also families that just moved to Jackson or had to leave their homes due to an emergency situation like domestic violence.
“Our Neighbor’s Keeper wants them to have a home, and not just a house. It’s harder to focus on getting a job, going to school, or caring for children when you’re stressed out about all these things. I think it’s very important to give them the things that everyone else has,” Gougeon said.
Donations from the community and grants from local organizations help them keep a well-stocked supply.
Our Neighbor’s Keeper is getting ready to move into their very own space this winter.
Those in need will soon be able to visit a thrift store that’s planned in a building at the corner of W. Prospect Street and Woodbridge Street in Jackson.
Gougeon says this new space will take the organization to the next level. “Our clients will be able see the items better and have more of a shopping experience.
We’ll have a section in the back that’s curtained off for privacy.
In the front, we’ll have a thrift store that will help fund the non-profit so we can better serve the community,” Gougeon said.
The new location will also give them adequate space to accept more donations.
Over the past four years, Gougeon estimates they’ve helped more than 600 people. She says all of their hard work pays off when she hears about the impact they’re making.
“I recently got a call from someone we helped several years ago. She said they still have the furniture they got from us and the family is doing well. That just warmed my heart. People just need a little bit of help to have a home and we are happy to provide that,” Gougeon said.
Learn more about Our Neighbor’s Keeper by visiting their website.
This story was featured in the Winter 2020 City of Jackson Newsletter.