financial wizard + number cruncher + charitable powerhouse + collector of toys for kids + community change maker
The kids are back to school and everyone gets that urge to purge – purge – purge! If you’re looking for a place to take all the old baby items, kid’s clothes and cribs that your big kids have outgrown, then you’ll want to meet this month’s Bella!
Meet Andrea Peyton, the founder of Weehelp!
What is Weehelp?
Wee-help is a local not-for-profit that collects new and gently used items for children. We collect everything related to kids from newborn to 14 years. It includes maternity wear, clothes, toys, shoes, strollers, books, monitors, bikes, outdoor toys, cribs, etc… All donated items are washed and checked thoroughly, batteries are changed, puzzles are checked for missing pieces, we go through books to make sure they haven’t been coloured in, and then we iron all the clothes. Once the items are sale ready they are priced and sold at our local Pop-up Tot Shops throughout the year. 100% of our net proceeds are donated to local children’s charities, with most of our funds going to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation (over $85,000 donated to date). We also partner with other local charities to sponsor programs/camps where stuffed toys we collect are washed and given out to children who attend their programs. Weehelp is not only committed to supporting local children’s charities, we are also committed to helping the environment. We have a process in place for recycling or reusing almost everything that comes through our doors and are proud to have very little waste going to landfills.
What inspired you to start your own charity?
In 2013 family friends in Manitoba lost their toddler to leukemia, they were never at the Stollery but their gratitude for their hospital in Winnipeg inspired me to give to the Stollery in their child’s memory. Parents are always talking about how expensive it is to buy baby items, clothes and toys and how much stuff they accumulate, so coming up with an affordable way for parents to purchase items while being able to contribute to charity seemed like a positive idea. While Weehelp started as a way to give back to the Stollery, it has become so much more for me. Every event we have, people express how grateful they are they are to be able to buy quality, clean items at very affordable prices for their children. Items that they may not be able to purchase if it wasn’t for our Pop-up Tot Shops. Not everyone has $100 that they can donate to charity but they have a box of toys or bag of clothes that they can donate instead. Shoppers feel great knowing that their purchase is going back to local charities supporting children.
What have been the challenges?
Sponsorship and Volunteers. When I started Weehelp, it was run entirely out of my home. It was going to be a little ‘basement project’ that grew into something huge! While Weehelp is still very present in my home, it also fills a 5,200 sq-ft warehouse. Having this space, which we absolutely need, comes with a large expense that we didn’t have prior to 2016. Being able to pay for our warehouse space is the biggest challenge. The second largest challenge is time. I volunteer almost all of my spare time (about 40 hours per week for 7 months of the year and another 20+ hours per week for 5 months of the year) but it is not enough. We have a few regular volunteers that help with sale prep and my mom devotes a ton of her time to washing and ironing clothes. Currently, I believe we could keep 3 people busy, full time, just collecting donations and doing sale prep and promotions.
Why is giving back important to you?
It’s important for me to know that I’m making a difference, no matter how small the impact is. I ask myself every night, “Is the world a better place because of something I did today?” I want to always say yes. Some people are able to do that through their careers and some have to take on extra projects to accomplish that. If I wasn’t participating in Weehelp, Adopt-A-Teen or the Christmas Bureau, I would be involved in another cause. You don’t have to start a not-for-profit to give back, everyone that volunteers, shops or donates to Weehelp is making a difference and giving back. Each contribution is as important as the next.
You do this all while working full-time as a CFO for a marketing firm. How do you balance work and volunteer work?
Lists and scheduling! Haha! Most days I’m not sure that I am actually keeping it all balanced! There are days that I feel like everything is falling apart but I am always certain I am doing the best that I can with the resources I have. I am fortunate to have a supporting team at Calder Bateman and majority of Weehelp supporters are accommodating to my career schedule/hours as well.
Fashion is important to you. What’s your style and what is it you love about fashion?
I love wearing dresses, any season….at an event, at the office, working at the warehouse or at home, dresses are my go-to. I love that fashion gives people a way to express themselves. People should wear what they love and be confident in what they’re wearing.
We’re headed into your favourite season: Christmas. You don’t stop with Wee-Help, you also are on the Board for the Christmas Bureau. What has it been like to be part of that charitable organization and what drives you to give so much of your time voluntarily?
I am! I have been on the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton’s board since 2010. I am currently the Vice Board Chair and sit on a few different committees as well as being the Chair for the Adopt-A-Teen program. The Christmas Bureau is a fabulous organization, I have learned so much about the Not-for-Profit industry since joining their board. I am very passionate about the Adopt-A-Teen program. Not only is it a great addition to the work I do with Weehelp, it is truly making a difference in the lives of local teens. The notes, emails and cards we receive from the clients of Adopt-A-Teen and Christmas Bureau of Edmonton are so sincere and heartwarming. Once you realize the difference these programs make in the lives of struggling Edmontonian’s during the holiday season, it’s easy to make the time to support the cause. It’s not always easy to make a difference, but it is always worth it.
Thank you so much to Weehelp founder, Andrea Peyton for being our October Bella of #bellamaasgives back! For the entire month of October, Bella Maas will donate a portion of sales to Weehelp. Shop online or at our locations in St. Albert or Sherwood Park.