Welcome to the 500 Club



Article Published: Feb. 28, 2013 | Modified: Feb. 28, 2013
Welcome to the 500 Club

Residents Carolyn and Brandon harvest their homegrown bounty in the Hospitality House garden, one of the many programs offered by the crisis agency.

Photo submitted



The Hospitality House casts its wide safety net across the seven counties of the High Country, gathering in both individuals and families in crisis.

But at its new facility on Brook Hollow Road in Boone, the Hospitality House net becomes a rock solid platform of stability for those who need a period of support and shelter so they can begin again.

“People would be stunned by the complexities of the people we serve,” said Lynne Mason, Hospitality House’s executive director. “The homeless people you might see on the street, who usually suffer mental problems, are only about 10 percent of people in crises.

“In fact, about 77 percent of the people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck. A crisis – sudden unemployment, health issues, physical or mental, substance abuse, domestic violence, any number of things – leads to instability. A person’s journey in life is suddenly interrupted, and our goal is to stabilize their resources base.”

Mason is in her second decade at Hospitality House, which is open 24/7 for those in need and staffed by 12 regular or part-time employees, including her majordomo, Todd Carter, and “lots and lots of volunteers.”

The new facility on Brook Hollow Road, completed in 2011, increased capacity by almost two-thirds with overnight accommodations now for 72 people. But the increased space that provides increased help for people in crises demanded additional financial resources.

So, Mason and her team launched the new 500 Club, which, at its core, allows families sailing along throughout the High Country to help families on stormy seas.

On average, it takes $32 per night to help someone at Hospitality House: food, shelter and the start of support services. The mission is to get 500 people to pledge $32 per month, the equivalent of dinner out and a movie, for one year. If they fill up the club with 500 members, it will cover 166 “nights” each month for people in need.

“The 500 Club,” Mason said, “actually gives families in area households a real, concrete chance to make a difference for other families who are in need. They can see how their $32 per month works. What they’re doing by contributing $32 a month is giving us the flexibility to keep families together.
“And also, if it works, it helps our long-term sustainability.”

The increased caseloads at the expanded facility come at time when funding from federal and state agencies is evaporating, or on hold.

Fortunately, the Hospitality House, whose roots in Boone date to 1981, and which opened its first shelter in 1995, is located in a very giving community of counties where almost 80 percent of its $1.2 million budget comes from area donations, grants and pledges, said director of development Carter.

“It comes from everywhere,” said Carter, who gets fired up talking about the different groups who give to Hospitality House: United Way, local governments, Food Lion, churches and foundations, for examples.

“And we couldn’t even operate or begin to do what we do without Appalachian State University. Their interns come to us from all different areas of study. Their ACT (Appalachian and the Community Together) program makes all the difference. They deserve a shout out.”

Nevertheless, Carter said, “Although our donor base is larger than ever, the economic downturn continues to take a toll as the average business, civic and individual contribution amount declined by 25 percent last year.”

So, the 500 Club lets contributors join in easily – and possibly earn a shout out from Carter – by providing one sheltered night for someone in need for pledging just $32 per month. And many nights are needed.

In emergency cases, when families in crisis need to stay together, Mason said, families can remain at Hospitality House for 90 days, but most get back on solid ground in less than a month. The house also works with individuals and touches the lives of people across all demographics.

“Who they are and the issues they face are so misunderstood,” Mason said. “Recently, a man came in who had worked for the county during a long career. Suddenly, he had a series of struggles and crises and needed to be here.

“He said, ‘I never thought I would be on this end of it.’”



Want to Join the 500 Club?

For more information on the Hospitality House, visit http://www.hospitalityhouseofboone.org.

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