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Project Hope for the Homeless

Friday night we attended annual fundraising dinner and auction for Project Hope for the Homeless, a facility on Freedom Road in Painesville which is part of the Ecumenical Shelter Network of Lake County, Inc. This annual event was held at the Banquet Center at St. Noel in Willoughby Hills and, on this occasion, we celebrated the facility's 22 years of existence. In fact we attended last year's banquet and the ribbon cutting for Project Hope's expansion last November. Ms. Judy Burr, the Executive Director, was very excited about the 5,200 square foot expansion and the ability to increase the number of people being serviced nightly from 35 to 50. Most importantly, this expansion is helping to keep families intact by allowing them to be housed together instead of the men and women being forced to sleep in different sections.

Receiving a special award this evening was the Chairperson of the Board, Father Gerald Bednar who has been working with Project Hope in different capacities since its early planning stages years ago. Father Bednar talked about how rewarding it was for him to do the work that he does. He expressed great admiration for the staff and volunteers of Project Hope and said that the best way to manage them was to "get them what they need and then stay out of the way!"

Along these lines, we credit a large amount of the success of this event to Ms. Stephanie Devers, Communication Coordinator and Dinner Committee Head for Project Hope who we see quite often at Painesville Chamber of Commerce events. Other people from the Painesville/Mentor chambers who we saw here were Ms. Terri O'Leary from Morris Family Chiropratic, Ms. Grace Himmelright from Transamerica Financial Advisors, and Ms. MaryAnn Bencin from MaryAnn's Family Hearing. We really enjoyed sitting with Pastor Kelly Irish and Ms. Kelly Tanner, the Administrative Assistant, of St. Anne's Anglican Church in Madison who were there with their families.

During dinner we were treated to some moving testimonials from people who had been helped by Project Hope. None of them suffered from chemical dependency or severe psychological problems; instead they all had fallen on tough financial times which left them homeless for a while. As we listened to their stories we were painfully aware that the same thing could easily happen to us and many of the people that we know.

Something unexpected happened when we talked for a moment with Mr. Sanjay Parker and his partner, Nicole because it turned out that Nicole helped out with the Cleveland Tenants Organization event that we attended the previous evening. She said she thought that she recognized us. We told Mr. Parker about attending the event at the City Club regarding young entrepreneurs earlier in the day. Mr. Parker, who immigrated to the United States from India with his family years ago, smiled and said it sounded like something he should have attended because he, himself, is a young entrepreneur in the IT field.

We also liked it that our friend Mr. Kevin Malecek, Lake County Commissioner, took time out from a busy schedule to appear here tonight. Mr. Malecek addressed the attendees for a moment and said that Lake County has many things to offer like schools that provide good education and a good business climate but what distinguishes it the most is the generosity of its people who seek positive ways to assist their fellow men and women in their time of need which was demonstrated this evening by the wonderful turnout on behalf of Project Hope.

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