LAWRENCE — Recent Methuen High grad Maxine Harvey will soon move to Worcester to pursue a degree from Clark University, but she’ll have plenty of practice packing by then. On Friday, she and volunteers, family members and friends manned a moving truck in order to expand the charity she and her sister co-founded.
Debbie’s Treasure Chest is a Lawrence-based organization where Maxine, 18, and her sister, Talia Harvey, 14, collect toys, clothes, other goods and money for families in need. Until this weekend, they had been operating out of a warehouse space on Merrimack Street in Lawrence, donated to them by Sal Lupoli of Salvatore’s Restaurant. But when Maxine won a $36,000 award from the Helen Diller Family Foundation, her vision got bigger and brighter.
“I’m absolutely in love with the new space and I’m very excited to get the ball rolling on this,” she said.
Their move to Everett Mills has allowed for office space, natural light and climate control. The Harvey family’s goal is to create a more user-friendly experience, where those in need feel like they are shopping in a retail environment, rather than receiving a handout.
“We’re so excited. The old space was fine, and very generously donated, but this will be so much more consumer friendly. When people come to shop, it will really be like a store, and not like a charity,” Maxine said.
Talia and Maxine’s mother, attorney Linda Harvey, has worked extensively with the Department of Children and Families and considers herself a child welfare activist. She adopted both daughters from orphanages overseas. Debbie’s Treasure Chest is named for DCF social worker and family friend Debbie D’Orio, who died in 2006, but the family’s mission of giving back goes back further.
All three of the Harveys recounted stories of large Hanukkah parties when the girls were young. Guests were encouraged to bring one item and place it in a box by the door, rather than bringing gifts for the family. Soon, the garage of the Harveys’ Methuen home was full of toys and clothing. Linda Harvey used her connections from work to find families in need of the items, and eventually, Debbie’s Treasure Chest was incorporated.