I’m good at goodbyes, mostly because I have to say them so often as a journalist. An issue is published, my next story is due, and I have to let go of a source to make room for the next one. That said, some interviewees are impossible to forget, like Erika Righter, the main character in “Unwanted,” an investigation of Colorado’s foster care system.

The story was published in December 2010, but I’ve kept in touch with Righter since then. About a month ago, I got an email from her saying that she was embarking on a new endeavor. I wasn’t surprised. Righter is a natural brain-stormer and rabble-rouser. Nary a minute goes by without the do-gooder expounding on some social issue—often foster care—and tossing out ideas to help her community.

Her latest obsession? A shop called Hope Tank on Santa Fe Drive. Inside the sunny space, the walls are filled with earrings, aprons, gnome terrariums, and more from 17 local artists, including Righter. It’s a quintessential gift shop (my fave: recycled paper journals; pictured) with a twist: Ten percent of all proceeds are donated to a charity of the artist’s choosing. I’ve spent a lot of time inspiring people to care, but they didn’t know what to do next,” Righter says. “Here, it’s very simple.”

She’s put together the shop in just over a month, and it opens this week during Art District on Santa Fe’s First Friday festivities. And that’s just the start. Righter hopes to hold film screenings, host an art honors program for former foster care kids, and partner with nonprofit groups. Oh, and sell you the perfect gift. “The store takes advantage of the fact that it feels good to give,” Righter says. “It’s small chunk, but that’s the whole point. Hopefully, someone leaves here and feels good about their contribution. And then they can do something about it—get involved, post it on Facebook, or tell their friends—and spread the hope.”

Read more about Erika Righter, in her own words, here.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.