The NOAH Project is a testament to what one person can accomplish when they set their mind to making the world a better place. The founder, Vanessa, came up with the idea back in 2017 after her child was hospitalized. She decided to help other Chicago parents facing similar situations by putting together care packages. We’re honored to provide storage for her endeavor, and we’re grateful that Vanessa took time from her busy schedule to chat with us about what she does.
StorageMart: How long has your organization been around?
Noah Project: I began researching the first steps in starting a nonprofit and playing around with a name during my son’s second hospitalization, which was in February 2019. When we were discharged, I hit the ground running on making this a reality. We became incorporated in May of 2019. We received our 501c3 in January 2020.
SM: What motivated you to start your organization (or this chapter)?
NP: My personal experience with my son’s two hospitalizations. Each time I had only the clothes on my back and had to spend a small fortune at the gift shop on toiletries and some basic clothing, like pajama pants and underwear.
The first time he was hospitalized was in 2017 and we were there for 7 days. I thought to myself, “how does this kind of service not exist” but left it as that, a passing thought.
The second hospitalization was in 2019. We were there for 3 days and I was like ok, this needs to happen, and I am going to be the one to do it.
SM: What is the goal of your organization?
NP: To ease parental stress during a child’s hospitalization by providing them their basic human needs. Our vision is to create a one of a kind, on-demand delivery service of care packages: delivered same-day, directly to the parent(s) at the hospital. Our care packages include a t-shirt, leggings or sweatpants, a pair of socks and underwear, and toiletries. Phone chargers are available upon request. All items are brand new.
We have been successful in getting the care packages out the same day with most of our requests. Our goal is to provide that “Prime Now” experience and have them delivered in 2 hours or less.
SM: What is something about your organization that many people either don’t understand or have misconceptions about?
NP: If you have never been in this situation, it is difficult to understand. As receptive as everyone has been to this idea, I have had a few misguided and misconceived comments as well.
I have heard:
● “Well if you have a chronically ill child, you should always have a bag prepared in the car.”
● “Why don’t you just run to the nearest store off the hospital campus to purchase your things?”
● “Can’t someone bring you a bag from home?”
Sure, you can always have a bag stored in the car, but what happens when you are taken to the hospital by ambulance? What happens when you take your child to the pediatrician and are sent to the hospital straight from the office and are not able to stop home first? What happens when you are transferred from one hospital to another? What happens if you are life-flighted from another county or state? What about the situation where your child was to only be there a few days but there are complications and days have now turned into weeks? What if you are a single parent or do not have any nearby family that can bring a bag to you?
As a parent, you will find yourself unable and unwilling to leave your child. You are not going to go venture off outside the hospital to go shopping. Sure, you can ask a nurse to watch your child a few minutes while you run to the hospital gift shop, but they cannot stay in there long as they have other patients to tend to.
This is not about vanity. It is about self-care and confidence. You are sleep-deprived, stressed, and worried. It may be one of the most challenging times of your life. Add that to not showering or changing your clothing in days – it takes a huge toll on your mental health. You are no longer able to be the best advocate for your child when your focus is distracted by your unhygienic state.
SM: Since its creation, what kind of results or progress have you seen in the community?
NP: We have had parents reach out and share their stories. The consensus is always the same. Putting on a clean shirt and washing up makes a world of difference. It instantly changes your outlook and helps you regain a positive attitude and a clear head.
SM: What are you most proud of?
NP: I am extremely proud of how much we have accomplished in a short amount of time. As of right now, we have yet to do a press release (it is in the works) and we have not done any major marketing since we were waiting on our tax exemptions status. Despite that, we have grown a strong social media following – especially in the local mom groups on Facebook. Everyone has been so receptive to us and is really rooting for our success.
I also take great pride in the relationships I have formed with some of the care package recipients. This has become so much more than just handing someone a bag of goodies and walking away. I have sat in the hospital lobby with these moms and offered a listening ear. I have hugged and cried with these parents as they share their stories.
SM: Is there a big initiative your organization is currently working on you want the public to know about?
NP: As I mentioned, we have only promoted ourselves on social media. We have only had contact with one of the hospitals we deliver to most, and they have helped facilitate a system for us to have a seamless delivery and assist with parking. We are now working on making contacts with another local hospital and making sure their social workers and nurses know that they can refer their patients’ parents to us.
SM: What are some ways people can get involved?
NP: We rely on generous donations in order to fulfill our mission. Our Amazon Wish List has been the best and fastest way to get us items in a timely manner and it also ensures that the items we receive are brand new. We are strict with our donation guidelines. We know that these care packages are going to be in the rooms of critically ill children that may be more affected by allergens. We continuously update our Amazon Wish List with our most urgent needs.
As we grow, we will be looking for additional support in the form of volunteers. We will need help with care package deliveries and community outreach events. We are accepting applications at this time and more information can be found on our website.
SM: How can we find you online?
NP: Our website is: www.thenoahprojectchicago.org
SM: Is there anything else not included in the questions above that you’d like to share with us?
NP: Our care packages are assembled at the time of request. They are not pre-assembled, as they are customized to the parent’s needs and sizes. One care package costs approximately $65. This is given to the parent free of charge.