Ruth Savage organizes prom dresses, shoes, bags and jewelry. She watches young girls come into the store in search of the perfect dress. They bring along their friends, their mothers, and ask her for fashion advice. Once they’ve found a winning gown, a smile appears on their face and it stays there – even at the cash register. That’s because these girls are shopping at the Wish Shop, where the nonprofit organization One Simple Wish works to grant wishes.
In August of 2008, this nonprofit organization based in Ewing, NJ, was established with the hopes of garnering support from the general public in order to better the lives of foster children.
One Simple Wish, led by founder and Executive Director Danielle Gletow, partners with social service agencies – which they call Community Partners – to collect wishes from the children and families they serve. These wishes are then posted on their Website and made available for the public to browse through and grant.
“I founded the organization after becoming a foster parent and realizing that there was such a great need for support for these children,” said Gletow. “There were few ways that the public could get involved without actually becoming a foster parent, which I realized wasn’t an option for everyone.”
Gletow used her 10 years of experience in interactive marketing to create the business plan and structure of One Simple Wish and launched the website in December 2008. In the beginning, there were only 10 community partners participating and wishes were being granted sporadically. Now, they have over 120 partners in 11 states and have granted more than 1,500 wishes.
“Partners are really the key to how we work,” said Gletow. “Because we grant wishes to the kids served by our partner agencies, we really allow them to focus on their missions.”
Group homes often have to cut budgets and the first things to go are birthday parties. One Simple Wish steps in and takes care of those things so that the foster home can focus on their core mission.
Gletow is responsible for planning events, handling media outreach, acting as an advocate for the children and families they serve, and forming new alliances with Community Partners and other child welfare organizations.
“I try to be the face of One Simple Wish,” she said.
In addition to Gletow, the organization has two program coordinators and a Board of Directors who play very hands-on roles. They also have over 50 volunteers.
One of individuals on the Board of Directors, Natalie Tolle, got involved after an internship she had at One Simple Wish in the summer of 2009. She was offered a full-time job in September and had to leave the internship but wanted to stay involved. She applied for a position on the board and was hired as their youngest member at 23.
“I love the personal connection One Simple Wish fosters between the donor and recipient,” said Tolle. “It’s truly unique in the nonprofit space.”
Tolle sits on the board as co-chair of the Program Committee as well as the Marketing/Public Relations Committee. She’s currently working on drafting a Media Plan for the remainder of the year as well as reaching out to local high schools about One Simple Wish’s upcoming Prom Dress Drive.
The organization’s Wish Shop, located in Ewing, NJ, holds many events and promotions. The Prom Dress Drive is just one being held here. Dresses, bags, shoes, and jewelry are all donated and foster girls are welcome to come in and try them on at drastically reduced prices.
Debbie Silver, a loyal volunteer, has been heavily involved. She first heard of One Simple Wish while looking for volunteer opportunities. Working at The Shop seemed both convenient and fun.
“I feel that I am fortunate to be able to only work part time and I should give back when I can,” said Silver. “Call it a civic responsibility, moral obligation.”
Silver can be found in the shop most Saturdays as well as helping out with other events such as their Thanksgiving Food Drive and Baby Sale, which are held there as well.
The Shop is also home to Gletow’s office and “wish-granting stations” where people are able to go online, look up wishes and grant right there.
Gletow said that One Simple Wish has had smaller fundraisers that have raised a few thousand dollars but come time September, they’ll be hosting their first large-scale event. They’re planning a sit-down and awards ceremony with performances and a celebrity host.
“We’re very excited to see what that brings,” said Gletow.
Seeing as they’re a nonprofit organization, a lack of money is One Simple Wish’s greatest fear. They have engaged more of their corporate partners in their work in an effort to gain more financial support. They are also looking into getting more partners and grant opportunities to raise the money they need to reach all of the kids making wishes.
“There are close to half a million kids in foster care in the U.S. and we need a lot of financial support to reach them all,” Gletow said. “What we have accomplished is incredible, but its really just the tip of the iceberg.”
Most of their recipients are from New Jersey however they have granted wishes to children in California, Tennessee, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and New York. Gletow hopes to see One Simple Wish helping kids throughout the country.
“We need more national publicity so that people can find out more about us and become partners, submit wishes, and grant wishes too,” she said.
Tolle is looking for growth as well. She hopes to see One Simple Wish all over the word.
“The more we grow, the more people we are able to serve,” she said.
In order to grow, One Simple Wish needs more people to help. Tolle said this could be done by volunteering, granting a wish, holding a wish-granting party, or following them on Facebook or Twitter.
“We have had such an amazing response to our organization pretty much since the beginning,” said Gletow. “It’s only gotten better as we’ve grown and found more ways to reach the kids who needs us.”
It’s the spreading of pride and faith that will allow One Simple Wish to reach its peak.
“We are so blessed in so many ways,” Tolle said. “If we can brighten the life of someone less fortunate, I believe that person’s happiness and gratefulness will be contagious…making this world a little happier.”