"All the money from our beer sales will go directly to the shelter," said Sherry Wrublesky, marketing events coordinator for Harley-Davidson of Cartersville, 2281 Highway 411 N.E. "This [is] the first time that we've even sold beer at our dealership. Hooters is going to do the pouring for us. Then all the money that we make from the beer will go to the homeless shelter. Also, we're having vendors. All the vendor fees that people are paying will also go to the homeless shelter, and we're going to do some raffles and things like that also and that will go to the homeless shelter."
The offering will kick off at Harley-Davidson Friday at 9 a.m. with a complimentary breakfast catered by Henry's Louisiana Grill for participants of the Trail of Tears Ride, which departs at noon. The open house will continue Saturday at 9 a.m. with vendors, food, bands, a 5 p.m. bikini contest, Jumpstart simulator, and the day will wrap up with a Mixed Martial Arts fight at 7 p.m. On Sept. 18, the festivities will conclude with demonstration rides, food, vendors and a Jumpstart simulator from noon to 5 p.m.
"Every year we do gift wrapping here at the dealership," Wrublesky said, referring to their initial fundraiser for the Good Neighbor. "When people buy things here they can get it gift wrapped for free. Then we ask them for a donation and we give it to a charity. Well, last year we [selected] the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, and we just had such a good experience with them.
"Jessica [Mitcham, executive director for the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter] is so nice to work with and the staff there. It's just such a good place, [and] we just decided that we would do a big event for them because we just appreciate what they do so much here in Cartersville and Bartow County."
With the Good Neighbor having to raise the majority of its budget locally, community partners like Harley-Davidson, are integral to its day-to-day operations.
"All the fundraisers we do go to generally support the shelter. We raise about $215,000 annually to support what the shelter does. We just had our largest fundraiser of the year in August," Mitcham said, adding the nonprofit's annual budget is $225,000. "Our big silent auction event raised $32,000 for the shelter. So that was a huge event but it's work all the time to raise the dollars to make our shelter possible to serve our community. So I'm hoping this event will be another thing we do this year that not only raises important money to support the shelter but also raises awareness about the shelter in the community."
Since forming in 1996, the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter has served more than 4,100 people. On average, the 4,600-square-foot facility that was built in 2001 assists nearly 345 individuals per year. While they are housed, Good Neighbor's guests are required to find a job within four weeks, and the shelter's staff helps them establish savings, focus on problem-solving skills and chart out future housing options.
"Our capacity is 23," Mitcham said. "Last year, our annual occupancy for the year was just at 54 percent. This year, it's at 93 percent for the year. So that means every day we have 20 or 21 people at least here every single day and lots of days where we're at 23 for days and days and weeks. We do see lots of people who really truly were living paycheck to paycheck and lost their jobs and quickly lost their housing.
"When you live paycheck to paycheck, there's not any room for you [getting] laid off because your employer just couldn't afford as many employees as they had or business was down ... I would say at least 85 percent of [our] guests find employment. It is extremely rare that any of our guests have to exit because they're not able to find work. Almost all of them find work but you have to have somewhere to live while you do that."
For more information about the Good Neighbor, call the shelter at 770-607-0610 or visit www.goodneighborshelter.org. Details about the Harley-Davidson's open house can be found online at www.hdcartersville.com or by calling 678-721-0203. There is no pre-registration or entry fee required to participate in the Trail of Tears Ride. Tickets for the MMA fight -- featuring at least eight competitions, including the Georgia Fighters Championship Featherweight Title -- are $10 for general admission and can be purchased through Ticketmaster locations and Harley-Davidson of Cartersville.