Barbara Hensley Selling Hope

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

After Barbara Hensley lost two sisters to breast cancer, she started dreaming of a world free of the disease. This year she's done her best to make that dream come true, in a most uncoventional way. She opened a secondhand store.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer is located in a large warehouse-like facility on Lake Minnetonka, west of Wayzata.

Although Hope Chest merchandise is donated, the goods on display are not your typical thrift shop wares. On a table in one corner rests a complete set of Waterford crystal. An antique coach from the 1800s and a handcrafted bookcase line one wall. A rack of St. John's blazers and knits hang by the register. All items are sold at discounted prices.

Rush on down, but don't expect anything mentioned above to still be there. "Items turn consistently," noted Hensley. With each ring of the register, Hope Chest makes money for Hensley's other endeavor—the Hope Chest for Breast Cancer Foundation.

"There are lots of organizations out there that are helping people with breast cancer. But they need money," Hensley said. Instead of starting another nonprofit to provide services to breast cancer patients, Hensley decided her talents could be better used raising money for existing groups. Hence the store.

Hensley had a high-profile career in marketing and management for 25 years. After the loss of her sisters, Hensley decided to change careers. She left behind a comfortable salary and health benefits. The move also meant a change in status. "I had to accept the fact that if I stepped off the corporate ladder, I couldn't get back on it … or at least not at the same rung I was on before," Hensley explained.

Stepping off the corporate ladder doesn't seem to have slowed Hensley down. In fact, it appears she has found her calling. The Hope Chest store celebrated its first year of business in November, earning more money than projected.

"Hope Chest will contribute well over $100,000 to fight breast cancer this year," Hensley said proudly.

That donation will be divided between the foundation's four areas of commitment: breast cancer research, programs for early detection of breast cancer, hospice care for breast cancer patients and support services for those who are uninsured and fighting breast cancer. That last cause is close to Hensley's heart. Both of her sisters struggled with hospital bills during their fights with breast cancer. It was humiliating for them, Hensley explained, to have to ask for money as they were losing their lives. "Many women," Hensley pointed out, "work part-time jobs. And part-time jobs don't offer equitable health insurance, if any." Hensley has plans for another store in the Twin Cities, this time on the east side of the metro area. Once two stores are up and running, Hensley intends to franchise the concept: 50 stores nationwide is her goal. Every year, each of those stores will contribute a share of their profits to the Hope Chest Foundation.

"This is just so exciting," said Hensley. "We are here, and we are a whole series of miracles." Hope Chest is located at 3859 South Shoreline Drive in the Orono/Navarre area. Call 952-471-8700 or visit www.hopechest.us.

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Hope Chest for Breast Cancer Franchising
3850 Shoreline Drive South
Minneapolis, MN

Phone: (952) 471-8700
Fax: (952) 471-8703

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