Cars have been lining up and boxes are filled to the brim, in the first two hours of a donation drive on Columbia Turnpike in Rensselaer.

What You Need To Know

  • More than 50 cars lined up in the first two hours to drop off donated hygiene products

  • Nikki Hart was murdered by her boyfriend and father of her children in 2012. Since then, her sister created a group, 2 Harts One Soul, to support domestic violence victims

  • All donations will go towards domestic violence shelters, as numbers are rising amid the pandemic

Personal care products ranging from razors, body spray, baby shampoo, and feminine hygiene products, were overflowing on Monday morning. Ashley Hart is the organizer of the group 2 Harts One Soul, which organized the drive.

“We take so much for granted. We get up we brush our teeth, we go on our way and there’s a lot of people that don’t have those things,” said Hart.

Domestic violence victims usually escape their abusers with just the shirt on their back. Often, they are accompanied with children, also going to a shelter.

“They literally pack up the kids, maybe a duffel bag if they’re lucky, get out the front door and into a shelter,” said Hart.

Currently, shelters are struggling to keep up. Beds have been filled and they are running out of products, as domestic violence numbers are rising during the pandemic.

”Now you have the abusers and victims stuck in the same place all day long,” said Hart.

It’s a pain Hart still feels every day. It’s been eight years since Hart witnessed her sister’s death. Nikki Hart was killed by her boyfriend and father of her children, Jason Guynup, at a home in Rensselaer in 2012. He has since pleaded guilty to her murder and is serving 20 years to life in prison. Her family didn't recognize any warning signs before tragedy hit.

“She hid it very well. There was abuse for a long time that none us knew before it was too late,” said Hart.

The 33-year-old was a mother of two and realtor in Rensselaer. Her sister said she was beloved throughout the city.

“You can go up this turnpike right now and stop in any business and say her name, and they will tell you a story of something good she did. She was that kind of person,” added the sister.

But now, Ashley’s making sure her sister’s memory lives on. She’s helping those who have the courage to leave their abusers. She says often times, many victims will return to their abusers because they don’t have any basic necessities to live. She hopes she can save at least one person’s life, through this drive.

‘’That makes me living that nightmare everyday of watching my sister be murdered, it makes it doable. It makes me get up and keep going. I don’t want anyone else in my anyone else in my shoes,” said Hart.

It’s the first inaugural drive for 2 Harts One Soul. All of the items will be donated to local domestic violence shelters, including Equinox and Unity House. Hart says this is just the start, and she won’t stop until the silence of abuse is broken. She encourages people to talk to their children, friends, and family.

“No one would’ve ever seen it coming. If you see something, you need to say something. We need to break the silence with it," Hart said.