Nonprofit Spotlight: Hope Connection International

Hope Connection International founder and president Debra Barkett, third from left, sits with employees and volunteers at the nonprofit’s thrift store, Deja Vu, which helps support survivors of abuse and addiction. From left are Benjamin Weston, Kirk Williams, Barkett, Deja Butler, Will Walters, Taylor Farnham and Aaron Garner.

When discussing the beginnings of Hope Connection International, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping people impacted by abuse and addiction, founder Debra Barkett isn’t afraid to get personal.

“My motivation for starting it was because I went through it, and people need to know that it can happen to anybody,” said Barkett.

As a former educator with years of experience working in church and youth ministries across the country, Barkett recognized the need for a multi-faceted, community-led approach to recovery services and healing. Barkett’s personal experience with domestic abuse fuels the fire and continues to inspire clients within the program.

Hope Connection’s mission is clear — assist in the recovery of survivors of abuse and addiction by offering free support, education, housing and sponsorships with tailored solutions. Free enrichment classes and support groups are offered at the community care center for domestic violence and abuse recovery, depression and anxiety recovery, grief support, addiction recovery, support for loved ones of addicts, and more.

During the holidays, Hope Connection International hosted an Angel Tree at its Deja Vu thrift store. Volunteers provided clothing, toys and other gifts for clients’ families. Contributed photo

Hope Connection also owns Deja Vu, a furniture and home decor thrift store located in South Hills Mall. With the help of donations and volunteers, all of Deja Vu’s profits provide critical funding for Hope Connection’s housing programs and operating costs.

The thrift store is one of the biggest ways people can volunteer, but certainly not the only way. Volunteer opportunities include cleaning the community care center, assisting support groups, buying supplies, taking survivors to appointments, sorting donations and running errands. Hope Connection is open to groups of all sizes and volunteers of all ages.

“At Hope Connection, I try to find out what someone’s passion is and put them where they’re doing something they love,” said Barkett.

While volunteers are always needed, an organization like Hope Connection can’t sustain itself without necessary funding. COVID-19 forced Barkett to cancel important fundraising events that typically bring in about half of the nonprofit’s income.

Volunteers drop off food and household supplies during a Hope International food drive. Contributed photo

“We need donations,” said Barkett. “Our victim sponsorship program is a huge part of what we do. We try to come alongside people who are really trying and meet their needs. If somebody donates $500, and they want to designate it for rent assistance, all of that goes to rent assistance.

“Saying that, we still have to run the organization. The operating costs are what have suffered the most the last year.”

One of Barkett’s biggest dreams is to provide a long-term supportive housing center for victims of domestic violence who have nowhere else to go. For sponsored victims, a temporary shelter is not enough. Until then, Hope Connection is constantly trying to find housing solutions, whether it’s a night or two in a hotel room or apartments that don’t require a credit check. If someone is in an emergency situation and needs to get out, Hope Connection will pay for their move.

Last year, Hope Connection helped “Jenny,” who uses only one name for safety reasons, escape an abusive ex-husband. She and her three boys were able to flee to another state.

“When all else failed, Hope Connection helped me get to a safe place,” wrote Jenny in a letter from the sponsored victims program. “They provided the help we needed to have a home and transportation. For 6-8 months, Hope Connection has paid my bills, helped me with food when I didn’t have money to feed my children. They helped me get furniture, gas, household items/accessories, and so much more. This organization is truly a blessing!”

Before the pandemic, events were regularly scheduled at the community care center, like this painting class for kids. Contributed photo

Hope Connection connects and partners with organizations worldwide to serve over 300 people each year.

“If we can’t help them, we send them to someone who can. We’re not in competition with anyone. We want people to get the best help they can get,” said Barkett.

“I just want people to know that Hope Connection is there, and it’s a safe, caring, non-judgmental environment. Our groups are confidential; that’s one of our main focuses. The more funding we have, the more people we can help.”

To learn more about Hope Connection International, its victim sponsorship program, upcoming fundraisers or ways to volunteer, visit

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