by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace
For the past three years, Doors of Hope Transition Ministries has hosted a Christmas walk-through home tour, featuring five to six homes, usually within walking distance, as its sole fundraising event of the year.
“People have really enjoyed going into the homes and feeling the community coming together,” said Susan Bartlett, the program’s fundraising chair.
Last year, the tours brought in about $15,000 in ticket sales and $45,000 in sponsorships. The money stays in the organization and goes toward program costs. The program? Helping homeless or at-risk families achieve financial stability through a rigorous program, executive director Mary Margaret Andrews said.
Andrews explains there are two versions of the program: The transitional housing program, or housing-in-place program. The transitional housing program serves to offer four to six months of shelter, along with the educational program. The housing-in-place program helps families before they are evicted, so they can stay in their home while completing the program.
The education side functions the same for both programs: Doors of Hope will help its anonymous clients calculate a budget that will work with their income and insure they stay within that budget each week, teach them how to eat and prepare fresh foods to create healthy habits in the household, and sometimes even help participants earn education requirements they may need in order to secure a better, higher-paying job.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive program,” Andrews said.
During COVID-19, Doors of Hope faced a challenge of determining the best way to help those in Lafayette County needing assistance.
“We kind of shifted gears and we did a COVID-19 assistance program,” Andrews said. “So far, through that program, we have helped 85 families in Lafayette County with their rent and utilities. That’s six times more than the usual number of people that we’re able to help — we typically help 15 to 20 families per year.”
Though these families aren’t out of the woods yet due to hours being adjusted and other hardships posed by COVID-19, Andrews said it’s been very humbling to “talk to them and hear their stories, and most importantly be able to help them.”
In addition to shifting its program’s gears, Doors of Hope will also shift its fundraising event due to COVID-19. Instead of a walk-through home tour, they have partnered with about 40 businesses in the area to design wreaths that will be auctioned off. Naturally, the event is called Wreaths of Hope, and will include a raffle. The wreaths will be up for display in various stores Nov. 7-21, and the virtual auction will take place over Nov. 18-21.