A Place For Hope in Rock Hill continues fundraising, hopes to reopen

adouglas@heraldonline.comApril 5, 2013 

  • Want to help?

    Donations to A Place For Hope can be made online through PayPal by visiting www.aplaceforhope.net/faq

    Checks may be mailed to P.O. Box 11232, Rock Hill, SC 29731.

    For more information about the group and its mission, visit A Place For Hope’s website, www.aplaceforhope.net, or call 803-329-HOPE (4673).

A Place For Hope on Blackmon Road is continuing its fundraising efforts while its community center and wash house facility are temporarily closed.

The Rock Hill nonprofit organization’s board met Thursday night and voted to suspend operations until the group determines that its mission is financially sustainable.

Supporters don’t know when A Place For Hope will reopen but the plan is to “come back better than ever,” said Jennifer Disney, former board chairwoman and Winthrop University professor.

A Place For Hope announced a new fundraising push about two weeks ago, saying it needs more five-year sponsors to continue helping at-risk youth through its after-school and summer programs.

Since then, the group has brought in about $5,000 through donations – a positive sign, said Director Mary Hoppmann.

Still, A Place For Hope isn’t cashing recent checks from donors until more money comes in to prove sustainability, she said.

Between 2005 and 2007, supporters signed on to five-year, annual giving plans to coincide with a $600,000 federal grant that extended county utility lines from Albright Road to the center’s wash house.

The wash house was built in 2010 with grant money from the John L. Mulvaney Foundation, the Springs Close Foundation and the NASCAR Foundation.

Several years later, many donors have not renewed their annual commitments.

The board, Hoppmann said, is committed to not using recent donations to just stay open for a few more weeks.

A Place For Hope needs to raise about $40,000 annually, Hoppmann said, to pair with local grants that support the organization. The nonprofit’s budget last year was about $92,000.

The group pays its director and two part-time staff members to work with children after school.

A Place For Hope’s money also supports utility bills associated with its wash house facility that provides showers, restrooms and laundry machines for Blackmon Road residents. The street has been called the “most severely underserved community in the entire state” by officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A Place For Hope started about 12 years ago to address poverty and the lack of indoor plumbing and sewage systems in many homes on Blackmon Road.

Hard rock under the road and the neighborhood makes extending water and sewer lines to Blackmon Road homes difficult and expensive. An estimate from 2007 stated that the utility work would cost about $3 million.

The wash house meets the community’s sanitation needs in a more cost-effective way, Disney said.

York County Councilman Bump Roddey – whose district includes Blackmon Road and many parts of Rock Hill – has said keeping the wash house open is a priority.

The county invested about $260,000 to extend water lines to the facility. The city of Rock Hill waived A Place For Hope’s tap fees to join its water system.

Creating a direct way for people to donate to A Place For Hope’s utility bills through its water and electricity provider, Roddey said, is one idea he has to help the nonprofit group.

Hoppmann’s goal, she said, is to reopen A Place For Hope and inform donors that their money is going to help, primarily children.

Many people in York County have a negative idea about Blackmon Road, she said, and think adult residents need to help themselves before getting help from the nonprofit.

A Place For Hope helps children, she said, and has changed its mission statement and goals to focus specifically on at-risk youth in Rock Hill – not just on Blackmon Road.

The new mission is “to change the futures of at-risk children and youth by providing educational support, life-skills learning and diverse cultural experiences.”

During the time A Place For Hope is closed, the board will be reorganizing around its new mission, Hoppmann said.

Board membership, she said, could change.

“We need to rejuvenate the board,” Hoppmann said, “add more members. We need more than six (members) anyway.”

Four of A Place For Hope’s six board members attended Thursday’s meeting. Two board members resigned last month after a vote to close the group’s doors failed in a 4-4 tie.

New board members with passion who want to be a part of the group’s focus on kids are needed, Hoppmann said.

Many nonprofit boards have members who can solicit donations or give money themselves, she said.

“We do need people who can do that.”

Some Blackmon Road residents have publicly questioned where the nonprofit group spends its money.

All of A Place For Hope’s financial records and books are available for viewing at the front door of the community center, Hoppmann said. To date, she knows of no community member who’s asked to look at the records, she said.

It’s likely that some adults living on Blackmon Road are looking for someone to blame because A Place For Hope has changed its focus to helping children, she said.

“When you have needs that aren’t being met, being angry is a natural feeling,” Hoppmann said.

Both Disney and Hoppmann say there are many adults and children who participate in A Place For Hope’s programs who think the center and its services are still needed.

The “ultimate end,” Disney said, is that the group is sustainable in order to help children succeed and stop intergenerational poverty.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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