Bethlehem House meets fundraising goal for new shelter

By Tammy Keith Originally Published January 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 10, 2013 at 5:53 p.m.
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— Bethlehem House Executive Director Judi Lively enjoyed her Christmas a little more this year knowing the deadline to raise $1.3 million for a new homeless shelter in Conway had been met.

“Isn’t that the truth,” she said with a laugh.

It all came together the last couple of months of 2012 to get the final $15,000 to make the Dec. 31 deadline to receive matching funds.

“There were a lot of activities that happened there in November and December,” Lively said. “Some significant gifts came in.”

One of those was an anonymous $40,000 donation, she said.

Fundraisers were held, including a tour of homes at The Village at Hendrix, a soup supper called Empty Bowls and a Josh Wilson concert at Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway, where it was announced by campaign co-chairman Johnny Adams that the goal had been met.

It actually was surpassed by almost $90,000, said Jill Imboden, Bethlehem House development coordinator.

She said last week that the capital campaign raised $1,389,883.

The total includes matching dollars from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

“We’ve already received the check from Windgate,” Lively said. “They do their homework, and we had to provide some information of how we’ve reached that [goal], and we’ve been giving them updates all along.”

Money from the Mabee Foundation is expected within the next 45 to 60 days, she said.

The board of directors will make the decision about what to do with the amount of money above the goal, Imboden said.

“People are still making donations, and the board is discussing what will happen,” Imboden said. “What we’ve talked about is that it will go to the endowment.”

A groundbreaking was held in August on the property, and Nabholz Construction is the general contractor.

Lively said last week that Bethlehem House was waiting on a building permit to begin construction at 1115 Parkway Ave. in downtown Conway.

Bryan Patrick, Conway director of planning and development, said two in-house reviews are required.

One “has been signed off on,” he said.

The other, a building-code review, is not finished.

“We’re waiting on the architect’s office,” Patrick said.

Robert Bowen of Burrough-Brasuell Corp. in Van Buren is the architect for the project.

Lively said the last tweak on the plans concerns an exterior staircase, which she considers the fire escape. The architect is looking for the correct material to make the stairs fireproof, and they may have to be enclosed, she said.

Lynn Hicks, building official for the city of Conway, said Bowen is putting together a “program of special inspections.”

When that is received and approved, the building permit will be issued, Hicks said.

The 7,200-square-foot, two-story facility will have room to house 35 people and will have two emergency bedrooms.

“They’re not just open rooms — they’re for true emergencies,” she said. “The purpose is to help house people who find themselves in an emergency: They’ve been evicted; … their house has burned.”

The kitchen will be large enough to accommodate 35 to 40 people who come for hot meals that are served each night, Lively said.

The existing shelter is a 100-year-old Victorian home that is too small for the number of residents and is in dire need of repairs, Lively said.

Lively said the new shelter will have a playroom upstairs. In the current building, the only place for children to play inside is in the small dining room. A multipurpose room will have computers and be used as a classroom so residents can get additional life-skills

training on-site, she said.

Residents are required to find a job within 30 to 45 days of moving in, stay drug-and-alcohol free, help with chores and acquire a GED if they don’t have a high school diploma.

Lively hasn’t had much time to rejoice about the fundraising goal being met — she said now she’s on deadline to apply for a major grant for operating funds.

Next Christmas, though, residents are expected to be celebrating in a new shelter.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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