Annual dinner to raise funds for Searcy shelter

Dana Guthrie Published April 20, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Patrick Connell will be this year’s honoree at the Empowering the Homeless annual dinner that benefits Jacob’s Place in Searcy. Jacob’s Place recently underwent a renovation, and Connell’s company, Connell Construction, spearheaded the larger portions of the project

— The need for a safe place for families to stay when parents can’t manage to provide homes for their children is what inspired the creation of Jacob’s Place in Searcy. The nonprofit was established in 2008 to provide shelter and assistance specifically to families with children.

Since its opening, Jacob’s Place has served more than 125 families with children, and there has been an ongoing “waiting list” since January 2009. Countless referrals of families have been made to other facilities, not only for housing but for food, clothing and other services as well.

“Our mission is to help homeless families who have nowhere else to go and help them get back on their feet,” said Kathryn Reams, former Jacob’s Place executive director who recently left the position to move to south Arkansas with her husband, who will be pastor of a church there. “We offer them a hand up. We want to be able to assist them in finding jobs, child care and a place to live.”

Reams also said Jacob’s Place can assist families with other needs, such as filing food-stamp paperwork.

“We want to do everything we can to help them get back on their feet,” Reams said.

The nonprofit organization relies on fundraising and donations to keep its doors open to the parents and children who need its assistance. One of the biggest fundraisers of the year is the upcoming Empowering the Homeless annual dinner.

“Primarily, the dinner is to raise funds for the operational expenses for Jacob’s Place,” said Mat Faulkner, Jacob’s Place’s board president. “It’s also to give recognition to the volunteers.”

This year’s event will begin at 6 p.m. April 27 at the Robbins Sanford Great Hall in Searcy. Reams said there will be a time at the beginning of the event for everyone to just mingle, and the dinner, provided by St. Paul United Methodist Church, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

“The dinner is always our largest fundraiser of the year,” Faulkner said. “We have many fundraisers for Jacob’s Place, but with the dinner, we usually raise around $20,000 for the operation [of the facility]. It’s a great blessing, as far as the revenue goes, but the dinner is also a good time to share awareness about serving families experiencing homelessness, as well as to give recognition to those who work so hard throughout the year.”

Reams said the master of ceremonies for this year’s event will be Pat Bradley.

“This year, we are going to be honoring Patrick Connell,” Reams said. “We shut down for a brief period in 2016, and he was instrumental in getting everything put together and back open.”

Jacob’s Place underwent a transformation that included a complete renovation of the facility, as well as improvements to operations and policies.

“We give shelter to families who are experiencing homelessness,” Faulkner said. “The facility was well out of date, and we had some safety issues, as well as some operational needs so the facility could be run better.

Some of the renovations included on upgrade to the structure, a kitchen expansion, new bathroom vanities and commodes, a front office for the staff, a new shared living space, and changes to the cosmetics and flow of the house. A playroom was built for the children, as well as new beds provided for all of the families who live at Jacob’s Place.

The entire project took approximately three months to complete. Volunteers who worked on the project included church members, college students, board members, staff and community volunteers.

Connell and his company, Connell Construction, provided oversight, labor and materials for the larger portions of the project.

“Over the past few years, we have given an award to individuals who have really helped the mission of Jacob’s Place,” Faulkner said.

“This year, it’s Patrick. He and his crew did quite a bit of work during the renovation. We had a lot of volunteers from churches and different groups, but some of the needs during the renovation were far beyond what just normal volunteers could do. That’s where Patrick [Connell] stepped in as a general contractor and helped us out to get the larger items done,” Faulkner said.

“I was a little hesitant when they said they wanted to honor me,” Connell said. “I was just doing what I felt was right. It’s what Jesus wants us all to do.”

Connell said he believes in the work Jacob’s Place is doing and that he is glad he could help the organization.

“I got involved because I know some of the board members, and they all really love what they do there,” Connell said.

Reams said events like the Empowering the Homeless dinner are important for the organization.

“One, it, of course, raises money to help with our operations and expenses. Secondly, it helps get the word out about what a difference we are making,” Reams said. “We will give an annual report on what we are doing. It’s also public relations and letting the people know that we are still here, and we are still a resource for families here in White County.”

Tickets for the event are $25. Event-goers can also sponsor a table for eight for $500.

To purchase tickets, go to www.jacobsplace.org or call (501) 380-8283.

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