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The Wish Project Inc.

 1A Foundry St.
 Lowell, MA 01852
[P] (978) 441-9474
[F] (978) 441-6911
Donna Hunnewell
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 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 20-3249145

LAST UPDATED: 08/03/2014
Organization DBA The Wish Project
Former Names Lowell Wish Project Inc. (2005)
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years No


Mission StatementMORE »

Our mission is to provide basic home and baby goods to recently homeless families and other needy clients in order to facilitate their permanent sustainability while improving our environment by reducing waste in landfills.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide basic home and baby goods to recently homeless families and other needy clients in order to facilitate their permanent sustainability while improving our environment by reducing waste in landfills.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2012 to June 30, 2013
Projected Income $364,684.00
Projected Expense $364,684.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Backpack Attack
  • Emergency Support Program
  • Goods Bank

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2012 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2011 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2010 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide basic home and baby goods to recently homeless families and other needy clients in order to facilitate their permanent sustainability while improving our environment by reducing waste in landfills.

Background Statement

In 2000 Donna Hunnewell quit working as a corporate trainer teaching physics to engineers to have her 2 children. At the age of 35 she wanted to quit traveling and be home for her new husband and babies. Through both pregnancies she volunteered with many social services agencies and quickly found a niche helping social workers find desperately needed things like diapers and car seats for their clients. Soon hundreds of them had her cell phone number and through the early years of both of her kids- she delivered goods in her minivan. Hotmail was the early connecting between Donna and a growing pool of interested donors as well as a growing pool of social workers looking for goods.  She spent nights for 2 years assembling the information she learned by working with so many homeless shelters and other support agencies. The result was a 4 pronged plan to provide all the goods needed by all the agencies all year long from crisis same day needs to seasonal needs like blankets. The two largest mechanisms for providing goods are: Wishes (for used goods placed by clients) and Projects such as Backpack Attack (where agencies get a shipment of goods to disperse). In order to make this happen Donna assembled a board of directors to obtain a 501c3 and rental space in 2005. Furniture wishes remained the most difficult to fill and they required a large space to stage. In 2006 The Wish Project moved into part of a very large warehouse and in 2007 finally raised the money to move into the final and present 13,000 sq ft warehouse space. Wish brought on paid staff in 2007 and now has 6 part time and 2 full time employees. Volunteers remain the backbone of the workforce and core base of financial donors; they work more than 10,000 volunteer hrs/yr. Income is generated through recycling fees and partnerships, agency fees and active fundraising. The ultimate goal is to have a Goods Bank in every major city but for now ending homelessness in the Merrimack Valley of MA is goal.  

Impact Statement

Each year we provide more than 36,000 very low income clients with more than $1million in value of used and new goods.  Providing expensive home and baby goods for free keeps families housed, safer and warmer. In addition, we recycle more than 720 tons of goods and save 1% of the cities bulky waste from landfill saving $70,000 in tipping fees.75% of the goods go out to the needy through reuse and $25% is recycled.

Needs Statement

Receiving and giving out free goods is an expensive business.  We give out $4 in value of goods for every $1 we receive but we are still only 6 years old and are struggling to establish ongoing sources of revenue.  Supporting our small staff of 7 and a 13,000 sq ft warehouse is a challenge.  One day we do want to expand and purchase or build our own building one day that is larger and more tailored to our needs.  

CEO Statement

As the founder and Exec. Dir. it has been humbling to see such a garage operation grow to a 13,000 sq ft warehouse with tremendous team of staff and good public support for volunteering and donating goods. Food banks are a long established institution but for some reason a Goods Bank to provide all the stuff the poor need - is a tough for the public to support financially.  We are honored to  have received many awards from the State of MA and other organizations through the years and recently our first national press in this week in a Woman's World magazine article (12/12).  Funding the staff and large space needed are our primary challenge.

Board Chair Statement


Geographic Area Served

In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.
Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Bradford - Merrimack Valley MA

Organization Categories

  1. Human Services - Homeless Services/Centers
  2. Environment - Recycling
  3. Housing, Shelter - Housing Expenses Reduction Support

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)



Backpack Attack

Each year more than 20,000 kids in out area need backpacks and their families struggle to supply them. We promote the donation of packs and supplies so that we can assemble and distribute more than 3,000 to kids being served by local homeless and social service agencies. All packs go to partner agencies that we work with all year long so we can ensure they are going to children in the most dire need.
Budget  $7,500.00
Category  Education Student Services
Population Served Children Only (5 - 14 years)
Program Short-Term Success  --
Program Long-Term Success  --
Program Success Monitored By  --
Examples of Program Success  --

Emergency Support Program

This important program is unique support for people suddenly left homeless due to fire, flood or lack of homeless shelter placement. We have a phone hot line and provide 24/7 same day delivery to the motels where families get placed.  Most people ask for food boxes, toiletries, clothing, coats, diapers, formula, baby beds and more. This started several years before Wish got a 501c3 thanks to a nice partnership with the Red Cross. Since then this program has continued to be flexible and fast.  Now Jill the assistant director handles the hotline most of the time with me as backup. Between us we have 5 kids under 12 but we answer the calls even holiday weekends. For the past 3 years we have supported hundreds of motel homeless families on top of our Wishes and Projects. It is always a strain but this fills a gap that no other agency fills.
Budget  $45,000.00
Category  Public Safety, Disaster Services, General/Other Disaster Relief/Recovery
Population Served Homeless General/Unspecified Unemployed, Underemployed, Dislocated
Program Short-Term Success 
A few weeks ago we were asked by CTI, the housing agency in Lowell, to partner with them to rapidly rehouse all of our motel homeless families by December 31, 2012.  We are happy to do this on top of the other wishes and on top of our Christmas program. We know how because we have done it twice before, unfortunately.  We have a system to provide large quantities of sets of home goods, furniture and things like TV's rapidly.   But how do you measure the physical relief of having clean clothes the night of a fire when everything smells like smoke? To our knowledge there are no other programs like ours around the country.   Certainly in Lowell we have tried to get the food pantries to take over the food boxes but to no avail. Nobody wants to be on call 24/7.  We just keep doing it and answering all the calls.
Program Long-Term Success  It is always hard to assess the long term affects of emergency help but many of the clients that we helped stop back and volunteer or donate goods to us. They seem to stay connected and always comment on how much we were there in their darkest days.  This project is an integrated part of disaster services in our area and we are part of the Hunger/Homeless Commission, as well as the DTA advisory committee. When the Halloween snow storm knocked out power here for a week this year, the Senior Center called us to provide 4 pack and plays for the babies stuck there in shelter.  We supply Christmas gifts, backpacks, Mother's Day gift bags and other premium goods to this population first before any other agency. We are very proud that since 2000 we have maintained a good relationship with the hotels (many other groups have tried and failed), Community Teamwork Inc. (the CAP agency that handles housing), and even DTA.  
Program Success Monitored By  To our knowledge we have answered every emergency call ever placed for 12 years (this started long before we were an agency or rented space).   We have this whole system down to one 2 sided page or instructions and the order form. Providing Christmas gifts for instance is really rocket science since the hotel will not give us names or room numbers. Our Asst. Director is in a homeless program herself and is a wizard at getting through the system to help others.  But each year we provide not only the basics all year long but gifts to those in our local hotel during the holidays. 
Examples of Program Success  Recently I answered the hotline.  On the phone was a Vet, a young woman in her twenties just back from Iraq.  At 7pm one night I was making dinner for my family.  She was in temporary shelter with her 3 young kids-1 night stays and moving every day.   I made twice the food and took her a hot meal. What she really needed was gas money so I gave her $50 (we NEVER give money). But in her case it was the best solution.  She has all 3 kids due to 3 rapes. She joined the military to get away from an abusive boyfriend her family made her marry. In the military she was raped by 2 different commanding officers in 2 countries.  Her sister stole the papers proving she had custody and it took a week to straighten it all out so that she could get a VASH voucher and finally have a home. She is a doting mother and one of the most positive cheerful people I have ever met.  My other story is short. Our current receptionist Iris, is a previous motel client. She is fantastic! We love hiring clients.

Goods Bank

We provide furniture and other high value goods for free to more than 1,000 families per year as they move out of shelter and into apartments.  By providing these expensive items for free, we give a leg up to help them survive that first year and thrive for the years to come. As a Goods Bank we are a regional support much as the food bank does for food. Needy clients place wishes for clothing, furniture, baby gear, appliances or anything other item through our online placement system. We confirm the Wish and an email is sent to the social worker that is a portable packet and pick list. The client or worker has 60 days to come pick out the items.  We assist about 25,000 of the 36,000 people helped each year  through reused goods and Wishes.
Budget  $270,000.00
Category  Housing, General/Other Housing Support
Population Served Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Homeless
Program Short-Term Success  With proper supports 90 percent of the families housed stay stable and housed for good (or until another life crisis). This is based on the fact that it is very rare for a family to request furniture again once they go through the shelter system and we furnish the apartment.    
Program Long-Term Success  We assisted more than 36,00 clients with more than $1.4 million worth of goods at no charge to them.
Program Success Monitored By  We work with more than 600 social workers via email and in person when they come with clients. We hear about problems and do our best to resolve them.  Our wish placement software has a feature where social workers can check the status of all of their wishes at any time. We hear from the clients as they come back for clothing and small items later. Every day that we give out furniture clients tell us how life changing it is to have a bed to sleep in when they have been sleeping the floor and pots and dishes after eating off paper plates for many months. This percentage above is based on the fact that it is very rare for a family to request furniture again once they go through the shelter system and we furnish the apartment.
Examples of Program Success 
Joan, a social worker, went to give out new backpacks that we provide to a refugee family from Sierra Leone. When only 3 of the 4 children came out to choose one, she found out they only had 3 pairs of shoes. She came right back to Wish and got a big bag of shoes for the children. Now they could all go to school.  1 year later the family is doing great and the oldest boy started volunteering for that agency, International Institute, as a translator to give back. We work with him all the time. We give out more than 4,000 pairs of shoes in a year.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

As the founder, it has been quite a challenge to grow this operation from my porch to a 13,000 sq ft warehouse and a $360,000 budget in 6 years.  When I left my job teaching IR to the Navy SEALS and GM, I thought I would be a stay at home mom. Oddly, now that my children are 10 and 12 they need me even more but I am thankful for wonderful volunteers that help with everything from wiring the new surveillance cameras to filling Wish orders.  It has been hard always struggling to find payroll and knowing that is 2 of my staff don't get paid they lose their housing and child care. The money worries are exhausting but the day to day work is quite rewarding and we close at 2pm so all of us can be home when our kids come off the bus. We have a wonderful board but this economy has hit them hard too and there is never enough time to do the board building,development and strategic planning we need to thrive in the long term but we strive to meet those challenges together.


CEO/Executive Director Mrs. Donna Hunnewell
CEO Term Start Sept 2005
CEO Email
CEO Experience Donna received her BS in Biology from Loyola University in Baltimore and spent 15 years in corporate America working as a systems integration sales representative for Carl Zeiss Inc. and Leica Inc. She then moved on to be a corporate trainer teaching IR physics around the world to military and skilled tradesman. 
Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience  

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
-- -- --

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Angela Gagne Mrs. Volunteer Manager --
Jill Maker Service Project Manager --
Terri Matte Mrs. Wish Manager-Administrative Manager --


Award Awarding Organization Year
Featured Article Woman's World Magazine 2012
Community Spirit Award Kiwanias 2010
SAC/Department of Developmental Services- work with mentally challenged State of MA 2010
Service Delivery Award World AID's Day 2009
Feature Article Boston Globe Newspaper 2008
Local Hero Bank of America 2008
Unsung Heroine State of MA 2007
Because of Her Award City of Lowell- Women's Week Committee 2005
Marty Miller Award City of Lowell Hunger/Homeless Commission 2004


Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? Yes
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --



CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 1
Number of Part Time Staff 6
Number of Volunteers 1,001
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 100%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 5
Hispanic/Latino: 1
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 5
Male: 2
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? No
Years Strategic Plan Considers --
Management Succession Plan No
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy No
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit No
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency No Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually


Board Chair Ms. Loraine Murtaugh
Board Chair Company Affiliation Coldwell Banker
Board Chair Term Sept 2006 - Sept 2015
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Jennifer Burns-Luz Goodwin Procter LLP --
Elizabeth Cruz Enterprise Bank Voting
Kris Hebert Dicicco and Gulmann and Comp. Voting
Jim Heller Salem Five Bank Voting
Lorraine Ilsley Washington Savings Bank Voting
Erica Jussaume Creative Minds Early Learning Centers Voting
Marc Macedo CPA Argus Management Corp Voting
Sandra Meneses Balas, Alphen & Santos, P.C Voting
Loraine Murtagh Coldwell Banker Voting
Melissa Santos FreeCause Inc. Voting
Susan Smith Retired Voting
Patricia Talty Talty and Talty ATTY --

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 9
Hispanic/Latino: 2
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 9
Male: 3
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 66%
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 50%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • By-laws
  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Executive
  • Finance

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2012 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2011 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2010 (%)

Fiscal Year July 01, 2012 to June 30, 2013
Projected Income $364,684.00
Projected Expense $364,684.00
Form 990s

2012 990

2011 990

2010 990

2009 990

2008 990

Audit Documents

2012 Audited Financials

2011 Audited Financials

2010 Audited Financials

2009 Audited Financials

IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
Total Revenue $941,195 $967,612 $878,913
Total Expenses $973,407 $938,099 $1,011,674

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$34,703 $50,047 $27,955
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions $131,434 $120,280 $108,542
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue $36,860 $31,900 $31,750
Investment Income, Net of Losses $4 $5 $17
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events $90,043 $58,546 $57,624
Revenue In-Kind $647,881 $706,834 $653,025
Other $270 -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
Program Expense $909,172 $883,594 $957,444
Administration Expense $52,545 $49,988 $48,629
Fundraising Expense $11,690 $4,517 $5,601
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 0.97 1.03 0.87
Program Expense/Total Expenses 93% 94% 95%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 5% 2% 3%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
Total Assets $154,762 $151,225 $114,987
Current Assets $149,580 $143,314 $104,348
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $87,767 $52,018 $45,293
Total Net Assets $66,995 $99,207 $69,694

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value $0.00
Spending Policy N/A
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line Yes
Reserve Fund No
How many months does reserve cover? 0.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 1.70 2.76 2.30

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2012 2011 2010
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

We do have an odd business in that we accept and give out more in value of free used goods than we take in as actual cash money.   Since those donated goods vary greatly in value they tend to skew the numbers. When evaluating our financials please be sure to take this into consideration.  The actual value of the used goods in the warehouse is zero for replacement purposes, priceless to the families that get it and inventoried at thrift store prices.

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in charts and graphs are per the organization's audited financials.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.


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