Teresa Rocque listened to working poor families and their daily struggles while she worked as a nurse. She met parents that had a job but struggled to make ends meet and provide for their kids.
Rocque and her colleagues started "adopting" families, giving them presents for their kids at Christmas and helping with whatever other needs they had.
But she didn't realize how badly some families needed the help until she delivered a hamper to a family that was living in a completely empty apartment.
"It was actually quite shocking," Rocque told CBC's Radio Active.
She and her co-workers rented a truck and furnished the family's entire apartment — and that's how HEARTS started.
HEARTS stands for Helping Everyone Access Resources Through Supports. The Edmonton non-profit aims to help the working poor with anything they might need. The thrift store offers everything from clothing to housewares to personal hygiene products and even some home decor, all for a $5 user fee.
HEARTS has helped more than 2,500 families in total, including almost 9,000 people in the last six months.
Rocque said HEARTS differs from similar non-profits in that they are open to anyone, regardless of income.
"There's so many families out there that just need a glimpse of hope," she said. "We want to always offer a hand up, not a hand out."
But the non-profit's thrift store currently doesn't have a permanent place to operate. Rocque has operated it out of her home before moving to another temporary location, but HEARTS is searching for a permanent home.
"Having the door shut is really heartbreaking because I know there's a lot of families out there that need our help and we have no place to give it to them right now," she said.
Rocque said they've found a location near 133rd Street and St. Albert Trail that would be perfect for them, but they need to raise money to secure it.
They've started a GoFundMe, hoping to raise $75,000.
'Little bit of help'
Steve Sande has been volunteering with HEARTS for only a few months, but he's impressed with Rocque's efforts to assist those in need.
"I'm blown away in regards to her ability to go out there and serve as many people as she has," he said.
He's helped track down an appropriate building for the organization, one that's close to a bus route and gives them enough room to stock all their items.
Rocque and Sande are hoping for between $15,000 and $20,000 to get the organization running in their new location, with the remaining money sustaining them for six months while they secure other means of funding.
"We just need a little bit of help here," Sande said. "Everything else will kind of look after itself."
HEARTS is hoping to open its doors on July 1.