story and photos by Cyd King
FAYETTEVILLE — More than two-thirds of the money to fund the 7 Hills Homeless Center budget comes from community events and fundraisers like Friday’s (Sept. 7) Chill with the Hills at the Arkansas Air Museum.
Though many of the events 350 tickets were sold, it wasn’t a sell-out. More people showed at the door than were expected, and organizers had to run out and get more. When they arrived at Charlie’s Chicken to get it, the proprietors learned it was for the homeless center and simply made a donation.
It’s these kinds of serendipitous events — “an investment in people,” says 7 Hill CEO Jon Woodward — that enables the group to carry out its work.
For example, the center has more 1,347 “Likes” on its Facebook page. A fan made a donation that allowed a young woman to become a certified nurse’s assistant, which raised her pay from about $8 an hour to $13-$14 an hour.
“About $18,000 a year in direct support [is a result of] Facebook,” Woodward said.
“We don’t do a lot of fundraising throughout the year, but this is our signature event. It’s a big deal.”
In addition to food and drinks, guests danced to the music of Big ‘Uns, and at 9 p.m., a net full of hand-sized rubber pigs was released from overhead. Guests collected the pigs off the floor and won gifts according to the number on their pigs. Items ranged from golf outings to large fireworks displays.
The homeless center, whose mission is “fighting homelessness and poverty with education, opportunities and hope,” served some 2,781 different people in Washington and Benton counties last year.
The group’s programs include:
- go7 — a mobile outreach program that meets clients’ vital basic needs, such as food personal care items, life skills training, housing stabilization services, and more.
- The Day Center — a center in Fayetteville for the homeless or near homeless. Here clients gain access to the resources they need to acquire jobs and housing.
- The FICASSO Project — a short-term program aimed at preventing homelessness or re-housing homeless families through financial assistance and education.
- DeNovo Housing — a community-based housing program that assists those who need more time to overcome barriers than the FICASSO project is structured to provide.
The Walker Family Residential Community — provides 19 transitional homes for individuals and families to build skills and save for permanent housing.