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The Wish Project Inc.

 1A Foundry Street
 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: 11/10/2015
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 also 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 also improving our environment by reducing waste in landfills.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2014 to June 30, 2015
Projected Income $364,684.00
Projected Expense $364,684.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Emergency Support Program
  • Projects: Seasonal Goods Distribution
  • Wishes: furniture, clothing, baby gear

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2012 (%)

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 also improving our environment by reducing waste in landfills.

Background Statement

In 2000, Donna Hunnewell left her work as a corporate trainer teaching physics to engineers to be with her two young children. Throughout both pregnancies, she volunteered with many social services agencies and quickly found a niche helping social workers find desperately needed items like diapers and car seats for their clients. Through her children’s infant and toddler years, she delivered goods in her minivan directly to caseworkers. Email became the early connection between Donna and the growing pool of interested donors and the more than two hundred social workers looking for goods.

For over two years, Donna gathered and assembled the knowledge she learned while working with so many homeless shelters and other support agencies. The result was a four-pronged plan to provide the goods needed by these social service agencies all year long, from crisis 'same day' needs to seasonal needs, like blankets. This plan incorporated two main mechanisms for providing goods: Wishes (where used goods are given to individual clients per their request) and Projects, such as Backpack Attack, (where agencies get a lump sum shipment of goods to disperse among their clients).

In order to make this happen, Donna assembled a board of directors, pursued 501c3 non-profit status and rented a small space in 2005. However, furniture wishes remained the most difficult to fill, and they required a large space to stage and store.

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. The organization brought on paid staff in 2007, and now has one full time and eight part time employees. Volunteers working more than 10,000 volunteer hrs per yr remain the backbone of the workforce and the core base of its financial donors. Income is generated through recycling fees, partnerships, agency fees and active fundraising.

The goal is to end homelessness in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, with an ultimate goal of instituting a Goods Bank, like The Wish Project, in every major city.

Impact Statement

Each year we provide more than thirty-six thousand very low income clients with more than $1million in value of used and new goods.  Providing expensive home and baby goods for free helps keep families housed, safe and warm. In addition, we recycle more than seven hundred twenty tons of goods and save 1% of the city's bulky waste from landfill, saving $70,000 in tipping fees.  80% of the goods we receive go out to the needy through reuse and 20% is recycled.

Needs Statement

Providing free goods to the needy is an expensive business. It takes  $360,000 a year to pay rent, payroll and basic expenses to run our organization for twenty-two hours a week. We are 90% privately funded, unlike most of the social service programs that we serve.  We currently rent a 15,000 square foot warehouse for $58, 000 per year.  We have identified financing for our own building with a targeted cost of  $1.5-$2 million. With 35-40 thousand square feet, we could rent half of it to a tenant, which would cover our mortgage payments.   This would meet our short term needs and give us room to grow. To that end, we need to hire development and grant writing staff to increase our income and provide long term financial sustainability now.  With more space, we could start a for-profit venture by providing on-site thermal extermination of pests with our Thermonator truck.  This was built in 2014, thanks to a grant from the MA DEP.  This would be a new revenue stream solely to fund the charity.  In addition, it would provide new jobs for low income teens and adults.

CEO Statement

As the Founder and Executive Director, I have been humbled to see a small garage operation grow to a 15,000 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 items the poor need is tough for the public to support financially. We are honored to have received many awards from the State of Massachusetts and other organizations through the years, and recently have received our first national press in Woman's World Magazine (December, 2012). Our challenges continue to be funding for staff and more space for volunteers and storage.

Board Chair Statement


Geographic Area Served

In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.
Cities of Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and surrounding towns of the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts

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)



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 program started several years, before Wish got a 501c3, thanks to our partnership with the Red Cross. Since then, this program has continued to be flexible and fast. The assistant director handles the hotline most of the time with the director as backup. The emergency calls get answered even on holiday weekends. For the past three years, we have supported hundreds of motel homeless families in addition to our Wishes and Projects. While challenging to do, this covers a gap in service 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 
We were asked by CTI, the housing agency in Lowell, to partner with them to rapidly rehouse all of our motel homeless families.  We were happy to do this, on top of handling our regular wishes and our Christmas program. We knew how because we have done it twice before.  We have a system in place to provide large quantities of sets of home goods and furniture  rapidly.  
However, there is no way to measure the physical relief of having clean clothes, a toothbrush, and food for your family on the night when fire has consumed everything you own. To our knowledge, there are no other programs like our Emergency Support Program around the country.   Certainly in Lowell, we are the one agency ready and willing to get food, clothing and toiletries to those who become homeless overnight from fires, floods, and other disasters.  No one else wants to be on call 24/7, so we just keep doing it, answering the calls.
Program Long-Term Success  It is always hard to assess the long term affects of emergency help, but many of the clients we have helped, have stopped 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 a Halloween snow storm knocked out power here for a week this year, the Emergency Shelter called on us to provide four pack and plays for the babies being sheltered there.  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 sheltering hotels, 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 twelve years. (This started long before we were an agency or rented space).   We have this whole system down to one 2 sided page of instructions and the order form for goods. Providing Christmas gifts, for instance, is really rocket science since the hotel will not give us names or room numbers. Our Assistant Director is in a homeless program herself and is a wizard at getting through the system to help others.  And so, each year, we provide not only the basics all year long, but also gifts to homeless in our local hotel during the holidays. 
Examples of Program Success 
Recently, while cooking supper for my family, I answered the hotline.  On the phone was a young woman in her twenties with three children who had just been placed by social services in a local hotel. She had been placed in temporary shelter- 1 night stays and moving every day. This was her third hotel in three days.   We immediately took food to her and helped with gas for her car.  We found out that she was a veteran, having recently returned from Iraq.  She was homeless because she was missing custody papers and it took a week to straighten it all out so she could get assistance from Veteran's Affairs and get 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 former receptionist was a motel client. She and her son received goods from us, and are now in their own place and making it work.

Projects: Seasonal Goods Distribution

This program provides seasonal items in bulk directly to our social service partners to distribute to their clients. They include new back packs filled with school supplies in September, blankets in October, new Christmas gifts in December, new Mother's Day gift bags in May, etc.  We solicit these items from our donors and social workers come to pick them up from the warehouse in bulk.
Budget  $7,500.00
Category  Human Services, General/Other Children & Youth Services
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) At-Risk Populations Homeless
Program Short-Term Success  ?
Program Long-Term Success  ?
Program Success Monitored By  ?
Examples of Program Success  ?

Wishes: furniture, clothing, baby gear

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 is for food. Social workers place wishes for their needy clients for clothing, furniture, baby gear, appliances or any other item through our online placement system. We confirm the Wish, and an email that is a portable packet and pick list, is sent to the social worker. The client or social worker has sixty days to come pick out the items at our warehouse. Of the 36,000 people we assist each year, about 25,000 are helped 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, ninety percent of the families housed remain 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 on the floor, and pots and dishes, after eating off paper plates for many months. The 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 from the International Institute, was delivering new backpacks that we provide to a refugee family from Sierra Leone. When only three of the four children came out to choose one, she found out that only three of the children could attend school because they only had three pairs of shoes for the four children. She came right back to Wish and got a big bag of shoes for the children. Now they could all go to school.  One year later, the family is doing great, and the oldest boy, to give back, has started volunteering as a translator for that agency.  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 15,000 sq ft warehouse and a $360,000 budget in six years.  When I left my job teaching Infared to Navy SEALS and General Motors, I thought I would be a stay-at-home mom, but the need for this organization and its programs was too glaring to ignore.  I am thankful for wonderful volunteers who help with everything from wiring the new surveillance cameras to filling Wish orders.  It has been hard at times struggling to find payroll and knowing that two of my staff, having been homeless themselves, depend on that paycheck to maintain their housing and childcare needs. The money worries are exhausting, but the day-to-day work is quite rewarding.  We currently close at 2pm so all staff can be home when our own children come off the bus. We have a wonderful board, but  it is always a challenge to find enough time to do board building, development and strategic planning we need to thrive in the long term.  However, now as always, we are committed and will 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 fifteen 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 Infared physics around the world to military and skilled tradesman. She founded The Wish Project and has been the Executive Director since its inception as a non-profit in 2005.  In addition, she has volunteered with many non-profits, and served on the Hunger-Homeless Commission of Greater Lowell.
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
Cynthia Anderson Accountant --
Nancy Concepcion Projects Manager --
June Folger Administrative Assistant --
Charles Maker Warehouse Manager --
Jill Maker Assistant Director --
Patricia Murphy Volunteer Manager --


Award Awarding Organization Year
Featured Article Woman's World Magazine 2012
Community Spirit Award Kiwanis 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 9
Number of Volunteers 1,001
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 100%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 7
Hispanic/Latino: 1
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 6
Male: 3
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 --
Shawn Ford Eastern Bank Voting
Kristopher Hebert DiCicco, Gulman & Company LLP Voting
James 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
Loraine Murtagh Coldwell Banker Voting
Susan Smith Retired Voting

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: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 5
Male: 4
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

Our board is currently working with a consultant to update our bylaws and board policies in order to develop a strategic plan for the next five years.

Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2012 (%)

Fiscal Year July 01, 2014 to June 30, 2015
Projected Income $364,684.00
Projected Expense $364,684.00
Form 990s

2014 990

2013 990

2012 990

2011 990

2010 990

2009 990

2008 990

Audit Documents

2014 Audited Financials

2013 Audited Financials

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 2014 2013 2012
Total Revenue $1,387,831 $968,264 $941,195
Total Expenses $1,362,943 $905,477 $973,407

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$53,177 $117,745 $34,703
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions $169,139 $125,184 $131,434
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue $44,200 $37,800 $36,860
Investment Income, Net of Losses $5 $2 $4
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events $81,187 $79,120 $90,043
Revenue In-Kind $1,040,123 $603,613 $647,881
Other -- $4,800 $270

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012
Program Expense $1,288,467 $855,123 $909,172
Administration Expense $54,969 $38,518 $52,545
Fundraising Expense $19,507 $11,836 $11,690
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.02 1.07 0.97
Program Expense/Total Expenses 95% 94% 93%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 6% 4% 5%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012
Total Assets $224,180 $193,501 $154,762
Current Assets $190,025 $190,114 $149,580
Long-Term Liabilities -- $0 $0
Current Liabilities $69,510 $63,719 $87,767
Total Net Assets $154,670 $129,782 $66,995

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012
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 Our goal is to raise the 10% down payment needed for us to purchase a 40,000 sq ft building. Currently, we rent for $57,000/year. If we can own a building and rent out half to cover most of the mortgage we can reduce our overhead and gain long term stability as rents rise.
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates Jan - Dec
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 2.73 2.98 1.70

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012
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 who receive 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.


The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

Our ultimate goal is to help end homelessness. Most families end up homeless due to a one time life changing event. With the help of homeless shelters, these clients get the financial, emotional and physical support they need to recover in 6-12 months. However, once in their own apartment again, they struggle in that first year to acquire furniture, household goods like pots to cook in, clothing as the kids grow, and even birthday cakes. By providing these to more than 1,000 families a year, we increase their chance of successfully staying housed for good. We measure success by the number of families that return a second time for furniture. The number is very low- under 5%. Plus, every couch and pair of jeans we provide was destined for the landfill so we are saving the planet as well.

2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

We do accept lots of donations from individuals,  but primarily, we seek tractor-trailer-load-sized donations from hotels, universities and businesses. Success is measured by how rarely we cannot fill a wish because we do not have an item. That number is very low, except for dressers. In addition to donated used goods, we run monthly service projects that focus on sub-populations of needy, to generate donations of new and used seasonal goods, such as backpacks in September.  Our weekly E-newsletter lets thousands of donors and volunteers know what items are needed each week.  Our Facebook account has 4,000 likes. Urgent needs like helping fire victims are usually filled the same day, thanks to Facebook and our extensive donor network.  We work with several trucking companies that drive our trailers all over New England. 

3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

 Our volunteer program is our biggest strength. More than 1,200 volunteers work 10,000 hours to make wishes come true each year. Our volunteer manager does a great job with training and recognition, so that many volunteers turn into donors.  One volunteer designed and developed our on-line wish placement software that minimizes paperwork for social workers and allows us to fill specific needs in days, rather than months. In addition, it allows us to pull statistics on every spoon, bed and lamp that we give out.  We have a dedicated Board of Directors, including several CPAs who work with our staff book keeper to keep our finances in check and make the yearly audit go smoothly.

4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

We measure progress in many ways.  Most important is the number of beds given out to children who were sleeping on the floor. Before The Wish Project started,  hundreds of kids and adults were sleeping on the floor and eating meals off paper plates on upturned buckets for lack of beds and tables.  That kind of hidden poverty is hard to measure, but the seven hundred fifty social workers who refer clients to us are our biggest champions.  They are in the clients' homes and tell us all daily what a difference our goods make to their clients. We see many clients who come back and donate goods once they are back on their feet. One even became a social worker.  We monitor the State of Mass policies and funding, so we are prepared with the goods needed when housing funds become available.  We support those families placed in hotel shelters as well, providing clothing and emergency food supplies as needed.

5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

As founder, I envisioned four areas of activity to meet the needs for all the poor in the area - all year long. Three of those areas (Wishes, Projects, and Emergency Support) are active and growing But, the fourth item was to have a for-profit entity  be the financial engine to power The Wish Project in the future. We are close with the development of the Thermonator (our heat treatment truck), and have other ideas for for-profit ventures as well.  The obstacles to overcome are funding and space.  We are 10 years old as of 2015 and have come a long way since my side porch days, but we need to expand our development efforts and staffing.  Knowing what you need is the first step.