WILMINGTON — During the second weekend of December, residents will have a chance to walk among lit, decorated Christmas trees in a tour to benefit Wilmington’s Hope House: A Safe Place for Women.
With Christmas music playing in the background and the trees decorated both traditionally and in innovative ways that represent local groups or businesses, organizers hope the walk-through will be a part of many families’ holiday plans.
The “Trees of Hope” fundraiser will be held at the former Books ‘N’ More space, next to Jen’s Deli, in the Masonic Building located downtown at 28 W. Main Street. The Christmas tree display will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10. Admission is free, and donations are accepted.
The goal this year, which is the first tree tour, is to have a beautiful even magical setting for the community to enjoy, so the experience will be well-received and the tree display becomes an annual activity, said Hope House Executive Director Tammy Beery.
Hope House opened in October 2014. It is a drop-in emergency shelter that does not require identification, references, or sobriety in order for a woman who is in need to receive a bed. A lot of the women who walk through its doorway are struggling with an active addiction or fleeing domestic violence.
Hope House volunteer hostesses do not try to solve the problems of drug addiction or domestic violence. Rather, the point is to provide a safe, stable, clean overnight shelter. Since opening three years ago, they have sheltered more than 150 women.
“What Hope House is going to do is solve the problem of ‘where am I going to sleep tonight’,” Beery said.
Open seven days a week, all intakes occur between 9 and 9:30 p.m., with exits at 7 a.m. the next morning.
Recently authorities brought a woman to the Wilmington Hope House after she was shaken by an incident at a large shelter in a big city.
Beery said she had devotions with the woman, who advised it was the first time in days she had not felt like she was shaking. When a Hope House assistant asked the woman what caused the fear, the guest said she woke up at the big-city shelter to a large person hovering over her.
It’s very unlikely such a thing could occur at the Wilmington Hope House. That’s because there are always two volunteers on-site working together overnight, and one of them stays awake. Furthermore, there are fewer beds to watch over.
Beery wanted to describe the Hope House’s approach.
“We love our guests. I don’t say that sentimentally, I’m not being sentimental when I say I love guests. What I’m telling you is we are intentional in our behaviors so that our guests feel loved and valued.
“That’s something we tell ourselves — we want to value our guests so much that they begin to value themselves, and that’s intentional,” Beery explained.
One way this intentional caring is demonstrated is even before a hostess starts the 15-minute intake process, they ask the woman if she would like coffee or water or is she hungry or is there something they can do for her.
“Often they say ‘No, nothing, I just want to get settled in’,” related Beery.
If a woman is under the influence of alcohol or an opiate, she can still be admitted for the night as long as she’s willing to obey the house rules which include locking up their personal effects which keeps them from using the drug while there.
Because no background checks are conducted, having a lockup closet helps establish a sober living house.
Beery describes Hope House as “low barrier but high security.” Hope House is a safe place to sleep, not a safe place to use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol.
A framed statement on the wall says: “We expect our guest’s full compliance in regard to our rules, or leave our shelter and come back when they are ready to comply.”
Most women go along with the pre-condition of locking up their belongings.
“Usually they’re happy to be here,” the executive director said.
Something Clinton Countians need to understand or come to grips with, said Beery, is that any community having an opiate problem is also having a sex for sale problem.
“There are women who prostitute themselves out to get drugs, but also to just get off the street. And that goes on here in Clinton County,” she said.
When women arrive at Hope House, they don’t have to offer anything or pay for anything.
“We want them to come here because by-the-by we hope they will form relationships, that they learn from those relationships, [and learn] that those relationships are faithful, that we’re not going to hurt them, not going to lie to them, that we deeply care for them,” said Beery.
And if they continue to come to Hope House, the hostesses can start to put them into contact with other resources in Wilmington such as Talbert House, Solutions Community Counseling and Recovery Center, Community Action, the Groups Recover Together, and cessation organizations, she said.
In addition to the tree display, the upcoming holiday fundraiser will include artworks by students from Holmes and Denver Elementaries on the walls, and a stopover by Santa Claus from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.
Masonic Lodge 54 donated the space in its building to support Hope House.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.