Online voting underway for State Farm Neighborhood Assist contest

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Listed among the Top 200 Causes in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist contest, the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter is in the running to receive a $25,000 grant.

Through Aug. 24, the public can vote for the Cartersville nonprofit online at www.neighborhoodassist.com/entry/2011995. While the competition features "causes" across the nation, the Top 40 vote-getters that meet the contest's entry criteria will be announced Sept. 25 and each awarded a $25,000 grant.

"The sight of a man or woman standing alongside the road with a handmade sign reading 'Homeless — will work for food' or 'Hungry, homeless, God bless' was once a sight associated only with big cities like Atlanta. In recent years, this has become commonplace in Bartow County," said Good Neighbor's development assistant, Alesia Hendon, who nominated the nonprofit for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist contest. "Homelessness in our community has been on the rise over the last two decades. It is a complex issue to address, particularly when the issue involves families.

"Families with children that face homelessness have unique challenges. It takes more income to support a family; one needs a larger home to accommodate a family, as opposed to an individual; larger homes cost more to rent; children typically do not perform well in school when constantly moving from one location to the next; and providing an adequate environment for preparing for school while living in a car is impossible. I nominated the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist contest in hopes of raising an awareness for the shelter and the unmet need in the community as well as the grant funds, which would be a huge blessing if we were awarded $25,000."

Since forming in 1996, Good Neighbor has served more than 7,100 people. On average, its 4,600-square-foot shelter — located at 110 Porter St. in Cartersville — that was built in 2001 assists over 600 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.

The nonprofit also launched a transitional housing component in July 2013. While receiving shelter, one adult in each household works a minimum of 20 hours per week and attends a post-secondary school nine hours each week, enabling them to later attain higher-paying jobs. The transitional housing program is comprised of nine properties — one rental and eight homes that are owned by Good Neighbor — on Johnson Cove in Cartersville, as well as four additional residences.

"We are excited about the opportunity for the State Farm Neighborhood grant," said Jessica Mitcham, Good Neighbor's executive director. "We've acquired some funds to help us with some ongoing maintenance of our shelter facility. Over the last few years, we've really focused on our transitional housing. We've grown that program a large amount.

"Today, there are 47 people living in our transitional housing program and 30 that are at our shelter program. We have a total of 37 children out of that total number that have shelter and have a roof over their head today, because our organization is here in Cartersville and Bartow County, and enable to provide shelter for individuals and families that need it. So [the State Farm Neighborhood Assist contest is] a great opportunity. It's just an enormous opportunity for us to address some needs here at the shelter."

Due to the shelter's age, various updates — totaling $54,000 — need to be conducted, such as replacing kitchen appliances, HVAC units and the facility's roof.

"Our facility here at Porter Street is now 17 years old and over 600 people a year come through here for shelter," she said. "So it's time to make some repairs on some things that any of us would need to make repairs on in our own home in that kind of time frame. 2018 we hope will be the year that we are able to redo our entire kitchen inside the shelter.

"We've already redone flooring. We've worked with the Elks club and Church of the Ascension to put in all new tables and chairs. So we're hoping to replace appliances and cabinets with this grant. We also have six HVAC units. We replaced one already. We have five more that need to be replaced in the next probably couple of years, and we're looking … to replace the roof on our facility."

For more information about the Good Neighbor or the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program, visit www.goodneighborshelter.org or www.neighborhoodassist.com, respectively.