"Our purpose for this event is to become the premier fundraising event for the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter," said Diane Harris, board president of the shelter and chairwoman for the Our Hearts, Their Harbor. "It's our hope that everyone will have a 'wow' experience and say they had a great time for a great cause and that they'll want to do it again next year."
On Aug. 13, the 15th annual Our Hearts, Their Harbor will be held at the Cartersville Country Club, 1310 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville, from 7 to 10 p.m. The fundraising event will feature dinner, dancing, live music, and silent and live auctions, with items ranging from home decor to sports tickets to vacation packages. Attendees are encouraged to plan their attire around the event's theme, Diamonds and Denim.
Since 1996, the annual event has raised more than $300,000 for the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, a Cartersville nonprofit that provides short-term emergency housing and a Goals Program for its guests.
"Many years ago the event used to net somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 and that is what we have set as a goal for this year," said Jessica Mitcham, executive director for the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter. "We're trying to build this event back to what it has been in the past. We've already raised around $10,000 in sponsorships for the event.
"So that means when people are buying tickets, the entire cost of the ticket will go directly to the shelter. ... The Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter only gets 5 percent of its funding from any government source. The other 95 percent of all the dollars that are working to make the shelter possible are raised here in Bartow County. United Way does part of that work for us. This year [they will] give us about $28,000 to help but that still leaves about $180,000 that we'll raise this year to support the shelter."
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, of whom at least 52 percent are children. 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.
"We have men, women and families here," Mitcham said. "We've been still extremely full this year. We're six months in [and] we've been 90 percent full for the year. Our total occupancy is 23. So that means we're looking at about 20 people every single day of the year thus far at least. And we've had some guests just being tremendously successful. I saw a guest about two weeks ago that came by to visit. He is working now. He's gotten his 8-year-old son back, and they have a new place to live.
"He just was absolutely glowing about how different his life was now than when he first came to the shelter in February and had literally almost nothing. He [had] lost his job and, like I'm sure all too many people now, was living paycheck to paycheck, and the minute he lost his job, then he couldn't afford where he lived. Really right now almost all of our guests are reporting the exact same story. They were living paycheck to paycheck. They lost their jobs [and] they very quickly lost their apartment or where they were renting, then had nowhere to turn."
Tickets for the upcoming benefit, which are $50 per person, are available in advance at the Good Neighbor, 110 Porter St. For more information about Our Hearts, Their Harbor, call the shelter at 770-607-0610.