No place like home … or like awesome ‘Hope for Families’

Chuck and Marybeth Cunningham with Marty Mercado, Gerri Smith and Dr. William Cooney. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

Just as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” affirmed that “There’s no place like home,” so too did the Hope for Families Center at its annual benefit dinner, whose hope is that “Somewhere over the rainbow … Dreams really do come true.”

While it may not have yellow brick roads, the Hope for Families Center does provide homeless families with a safe, clean living space and supportive services to help them move from homelessness to sustainable permanent housing.

As attendees perused the auction items, various characters from the iconic book and movie wandered about, before everyone sat down for dinner.

“We’re here tonight to honor a wonderful charitable organization known as the Hope for Families Center and to do some important fundraising in support of families in need. There’s nothing more important than having a safe home,” said John Moore, emcee.

“The famous line by Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ – is an expression that reflects the sentiment that one’s own home is special and unique,” said event chair Crystal Golightly.

“This team believes every individual deserves a roof over their head, not only as a matter of security, stability and well-being, but, most importantly, as a matter of dignity. At the Hope for Families Center, the families are cared for through a holistic approach, and when you enter the doors, you feel at home, whether you’re a volunteer, a visitor or resident.”

HFC is the largest shelter program in the area, and its programs are based on five keys to success: job placement, financial literacy, health and wellness, equity in education, and housing placement.

“We’re at 83 percent of our $5.5 million capital campaign goal. We will be breaking ground at the end of the summer on our new facility,” announced Marty Mercado, HFC executive director, before unveiling a 3D video rendering of the new building.

“It will double the capacity for our emergency shelter. We will be building nine transitional apartments that will be utilized for people who need a little bit longer with us in order to find permanent housing, and a new administration building,” she said.

They currently have 20 rooms available for families, with an additional room set aside for isolation during the cold and flu season. With the expansion, they will have 40 rooms and nine apartments available.

The additional rooms are much needed, explained Mercado, as the shelter has a waitlist of 120 families. There has been an influx of single mothers with large families ranging in age from 5 to 17, which can require more than one room.

“Most of them have gone through divorce, so they are down to a single income. And it’s tough to find housing because a lot of people won’t rent a two-bedroom apartment to somebody with seven children,” added Mercado.

At issue also is the lack of affordable housing and low wages. Mercado said they have been working with the Treasure Coast Homeless Coalition to help families find housing.

Mercado said a little more than $275,000 was raised at the gala, some of which will help with operational expenses such as salaries, food, maintenance and transportation.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the continuing support of our donors. Our donors are heroes for homeless families that are working to become sustainable and housed,” added Mercado.

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Photos by Joshua Kodis

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