HOPE Center back in action after two-year hiatus

Scott Swanson

Bethanie Young sits with Donna, the resident manager of the HOPE Center, in a tastefully lit room with sunlight streaming through the large windows.

This is the reception area for the HOPE Center, which has been “essentially empty” for the past couple of years, another result of the COVID pandemic.

But no more. The facility is neatly restored to operation, with administration and residents following that hiatus.

The HOPE Center, located at the corner of 12th and Kalmia streets, was established by Sharon Pryor and Esther Bennett in 1990 as a resource for women and children in crisis. The organization, located in the former First Baptist Church building, offers lodging, counseling and other help to victims of domestic abuse and other issues.

The organization is funded entirely by donations, including from local churches, and has experienced ebbs and flows during its history, the most recent coming in 2020.

“Through COVID and stuff, they had basically shut down,” said Young, the defacto administrator, who joined the organization’s Board of Directors last year. She is one of an entirely new board, she said.

The others are Jim and Marilee Sapp, longtime board members at Albany-based Helping Hands, which offers shelter to the homeless; Gloria Bond, a Helping Hands resident and current volunteer at the Bailey Home, which is similar to the HOPE Center; longtime HOPE Center board member and treasurer Judy Goodenough; Young, who is pastor of the Sweet Home Church of the Nazarene, and her husband Jeff, who both have been heavily involved in local ministries for the homeless; and Pastor George Medellin of Turning Point Church.

“They made a big transition with the board in June of last year,” Young said, noting that Helping Hands provided support initially as the HOPE Center revived. “There are some of us from Sweet Home now on the board, with the potential that the entire board will be Sweet Home community residents in the long run, to kind of move forward.”

One of the first steps was to install new management, including a resident manager, Donna (in this case The New Era has agreed to not use a last name, because of past difficulties with domestic violence), who arrived last fall. Young and Donna, who is not from Sweet Home, have known each other for years, they said. Both are themselves survivors of domestic violence, Young said.

She said one of the impetuses for getting the HOPE Center back in operation has been the housing crisis, so a lot of work has been done on the building.

“We did some remodeling here,” she said. “We pulled out old carpets and got rid of some of the negative stuff that was here. We repainted and refreshed it, brought it to that kind of welcoming sense so people can come in.”

The facility opened in January, and one resident has since moved on to an independent life, though she frequently visits, Donna said.

“She’s my success story so far,” she said. “I’m proud of her. She gained all her rights to her other son, she’s graduated from Drug Court, she was only here a month or two.”

The center is largely full now, with several women and one child, Young said. The maximum capacity is 10, including children.

Residents are able to come and go, and use code names so they can’t be traced, she said.

Ashley Wells of Lebanon Calvary Chapel leads a weekly Bible study, and a Celebrate Recovery program just started up last week.

The HOPE Center provides access to counseling and other services, they said.

Young said the goal is to provide a “transitional” experience for the residents, to get them on their feet and help them deal with the issues in their lives.

“We’re trying to not be a space where people can come and just live, but be a space that’s transitional, where they’re moving forward. ”

She noted that she understands “where they’re coming from, but we also understand that you can’t stay stuck in it. So it’s the idea of moving forward and yeah, your past is your past and it’s awful and you have to deal with that. But at the same time, you can’t dwell on that.”

“Hope is the most important thing,” Donna added. “I was there, with no hope, and I don’t want anybody to not have hope. That’s a big word and it’s funny that this place was named that.”

Donations from the community are needed and accepted.

Specifically, the HOPE Center needs: two working, under-the-cabinet dishwashers; hygiene items such as toilet and tissue paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, dish and laundry soap, and feminine supplies; bath towel sets; and queen and twin bedding.

Also, volunteer help is needed for yard and building maintenance, construction projects and simply to work with residents one-on-one.

The HOPE Center also holds a semi-monthly rummage sale to raise funds.

To donate or volunteer, contact Medellin at (206) 419-1019 or leave a message at (541) 367-HOPE. Checks or money orders can be sent to Hope Center, P.O. Box 351, Sweet Home, OR 97386.