Raising money to raise hope

Helping teens in need on a large scale isn’t cheap, and Hope Harbor campaigns are either planned or are in the works to raise money

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on Marshall’s Hope Harbor.

One of the many changes happening at Hope Harbor in Marshall is new initiatives designed to help fund the refuge for teen girls.

Hope Harbor – formerly called House of Hope – is a voluntary placement ministry offering girls ages 13-17 the opportunity to heal from past hurts and destructive behaviors through a structured residential program that incorporates the entire family. The program has a strong Christian focus.

“Now after 10 years, we’ve served more than 65 girls,” new director Cindy McKittrick said.

In addition to providing counseling, education, life skills training and spiritual growth opportunities to the girls in the program, along with parenting classes and counseling for their parents, Hope Harbor has served more than 60 clients in its non-residential program, more than 2,000 students and teachers in its school presentations and more than 350 young girls through its community camps. The nonprofit organization also offers community classes on a variety of topics for teens, parents and local professionals.

“A lot of times, people will ask ‘What’s your success rate?'” McKittrick said. “We like to tell people it’s 100 percent because God brought the girls here, we gave them the tools and we taught them what they need to know to be successful in life. We encourage them to be in the Word and to go there first for guidance.

“We planted the seed, which is what God calls us to do. Then they go off and they may struggle, as many of us in life do. But they now have the tools, and you pray that somebody comes and waters the seeds that were planted.”

Women of Hope was created to provide an opportunity for Christian women to come together through fun social events, helping generate dollars that enable Hope Harbor to help the teens navigate the difficulties they have in life.

“Our Women of Hope group is something new this year,” McKittrick said. “We asked women to donate – make a $100 donation to be part of this group – and then we’re offering four events for them to attend with that $100.”

The first event, “Tea and Testimonials,” was held on May 12.

“We had the girls give their testimony and we had the table all set up with tea cups, sauciers and everything,” McKittrick said. “Sharon Schell came and did some music with us. It’s was a really fun night.”

In addition to funding, the goal behind having the events was to replace some of the annual events that took place in November instead because of the 10-year anniversary celebration.

“It took the place of the style show and concert because we just did that in November,” McKittrick said. “We used to spread out the events before that. So we tried to come up with something different that we could offer to get women involved.”

The “Sip and Swap Garden Party” is scheduled for Aug. 20. New membership is still allowed. Go to www.hopeharbormn.org to sign up.

“We’re going to have this in a friend’s backyard, and the women are going to bring a gently used item – either home dcor accessories or lawn and garden – and we’re going to take them, set it up and have a silent auction that morning,” McKittrick said.

The third event is the annual dinner, called “Celebration of Hope,” which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Southwest Minnesota State University.

The final event is called “Hope and Heels Night Out” and will be held in February. Members have the opportunity to invite a friend and can sign up for the next year if they choose.

“We’re not 100 percent sure what that’s going to look like,” McKittrick said. “The day and location are to be determined yet. When we started planning this, it was a year away.”

If there is wine involved in the fourth event, the girls at Hope Harbor won’t take part, McKittrick said, noting that they’re definitely going to be involved in the other events.

“We had the girls tell their story at the ‘Tea and Testimonials’ because that’s where the heart connection comes in,” McKittrick said. “You hear about how these girls’ lives are being changed. And it’s really because of the people who support this ministry that we’re able to do the work that we do, to teach them about God and what it means to live a Christ-centered life. It’s all entwined.”

While Hope Harbor has done amazing things throughout the past decade, a lot of people still don’t know about the organization.

“We need to keep telling our story,” McKittrick said. “Our goal when we started Women of Hope was to have 100 women join. We now have 139 who have joined our group. And of the 139 women, a lot of them are new to the ministry as far as ever coming to an event or being a donor. That’s been exciting to see a lot more people join us and start to learn about the ministry and the work that God does here, serving the girls.”

The second Hope Harbor initiative is the Anchor Club. The anchor has become a perfect symbol to tie in with Hope Harbor’s foundational Scripture: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19).”

“Something we’ve done this year is to try to increase the people who have committed to donating monthly to the ministry,” McKittrick said. “There’s a lot of people that donate at year-end and we really appreciate that, and we get some donations throughout the year, but it would be nice if we had consistent donations coming in every month. We can gauge a little bit more.”

The Anchor Club is a step in that direction.

“God has always provided for the ministry – we’ve been very blessed that way,” McKittrick said. “And we have some very committed donors that have been wonderful. But our Anchor Club is a club you can join and basically, you’re just agreeing to donate monthly. You can do that online. It’s really easy. It’s just one page. People can do like a bill pay type thing where we get a check automatically every month.”

Anchor Club members get a free T-shirt. Additional shirts for family members, co-workers or friends are $10 apiece.

“We’re also starting to run a campaign called ‘We Believe in Hope,'” McKittrick said. “We’re starting to have families or whoever take their photo together wearing the shirt and then we post it on Facebook. We’re working with businesses right now, to go in and talk to their employees and then we’ll run like a ‘Ralco Believes in Hope’ photo. (Our counselor) Kim (Sanow) took one with her four daughters. And Ben (Wiener) is going to put it on his billboard sign.”

The campaign is really geared toward promoting Hope Harbor and its Facebook page. The organization is also giving away items via social media.

“We have a donor who donated 50 tickets to Friday Night Lights (a concert event partnered with Marshall’s Sounds of Summer event in August), so we used them to run a like and share on Facebook,” McKittrick said. “We just drew for our first 10 winners. That’s so fun. We’re also trying to think of different ways to give the tickets away.”

While Hope Harbor strives to keep program costs low, round the clock care, counseling and education is expensive. The organization’s annual budget is close to $315,000. since Hope Harbor is Christ-centered and Biblically-based, it does not receive any government funding.

“Tuition per resident is $3,000 a month, which is a lot less than state-run programs or other private programs,” McKittrick said. “We tell parents $3,000 a month, however, we really feel that if God led them here, we’re not going to turn them away. We don’t ever want money to be something that holds them back from bringing their daughter here. So we make an agreement with parents, ask what they can pay, and kind of set up a payment plan with them. That’s also where we go out and do our fundraising and look for donors and things. It really is a blessing for the families that can’t pay the $3,000 a month.”

Even at $3,000 a month with six girls, it doesn’t cover the budget, McKittrick said. While there are food and housing costs, the biggest financial challenge is paying for quality staff.

“We have staff here 24/7 and you need to pay people,” McKittrick said. “Claudia volunteered for 10 years, but I can’t find any other staff to do that, at least on a full-time basis.”

Along with McKittrick, full-time staff includes: Melissa Bruns (program coordinator), Pam Johnson (teacher), Kim Sanow (counselor) and Allan Ward (lead assessor, board member and computer guru). There are many more staff along with countless volunteers.

Serving teens in need has always been Hope Harbor’s first priority. For that reason, the organization is planning to expand to two new locations: Winona (girls) and Sioux Falls, S.D. (boys).

“It’s all about helping these teens in need,” McKittrick said. “Marshall will kind of be our main office, so it’ll be Hope Harbor with locations in Winona and Sioux Falls.”

As a Hope Harbor founder, Stenson will be in charge of most of the hiring at the two new sites when each gets to that point.

“Ms. Melissa will train staff out of this site and we’re going to have a site director at each location, so I’ll work with those people, teaching them what the site director needs to know,” McKittrick said. “We’ll have advisory boards in each location, with a governing board that includes people from each location – two or three from each. We’re pretty excited.”

While it was certainly not their intent to have two houses at one time, that’s the way things happened to work out.

“There have been lots of changes, but we took one step forward at a time,” McKittrick said. “We’d take one step forward, and then we’d wait and pray: is this really what we’re supposed to be doing, God? Then we’d take another step.”