August 14, 2008

HALO offers a colorful place to rest your head

Small sample of HALO's hand-made pillow cases

Four hundred colorful, hand-made pillow cases will be on the menu when HALO holds its summer picnic on Sunday, Aug. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. at the homeless shelter, 2000 DeKoven Ave.

The picnic's main purpose is to celebrate HALO's third anniversary, which is coming up this fall, and to note the completion of its capital campaign projects. The Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization raised $2.4 million before opening in 2005 (a campaign led by Bill Walker), and the money has been spent building out the inside of the shelter and for operations during its first three years. Now HALO is operating in the black, on a $1.1 million annual budget, as per its first business plan -- its 110 residents and 55 more in transitional apartments supported by HUD, other government grants, the United Way and local foundations. The final capital project -- the planting of three trees and erection of a fence around the women's and children's play area in front -- will be finished this week.

The organization is looking to the future in a number of ways. One is this first fund-raiser, selling beautiful pillow cases made by residents and volunteers from the community, and an auction of specialty baskets at the picnic.

Another is to begin looking for its second executive director. Cheryl Buckley, right, who has headed HALO since its inception -- she was enticed out of retirement as a YMCA director (here, and later in Chicago) -- had agreed to a two-year term to get the organization built and on its feet. "I've now been here three and a half-years," she said. "They got double," she jokes. Buckley was unaware there was a three-year business plan in place when she agreed to take the job, but she stayed through to its completion. Now she and her husband, Peter, have bought a home in Cape Coral, FL.

"This time, I'm not going to say I'm 'retiring' again," she said. "I love to troubleshoot and create. We'll see what happens." HALO will begin looking for a replacement for her in September.

The pillow case project began with a resident of the homeless shelter, "a wonderful seamstress," who was sewing pillowcases for the troops in Iraq. Lighthouse Quilters Guild and other organizations were involved in similar projects. Later, Buckley said to herself, "wouldn't pillow cases be a wonderful project for HALO."

And so she put a note in the organization's newsletter, asking for material. Jim Deibler, owner of Sew 'n Save, donated some sewing machines and gave a workshop in their use to half a dozen shelter residents. Patterns were printed in the newsletter. Pretty soon, many volunteers were sewing: nuns, relatives of shelter residents, residents and even Buckley herself.

The pillow cases are colorful and professional; French seams abound (if you guys don't know what that is, ask your wives). They are being sold individually, at $10 each, and also in pairs of color-coordinated pillow cases. There are flower designs, stripes, solids -- even sports-themed pillow cases.

This is HALO's first fund-raiser since its original capital campaign, which drew donations from 255 companies, organizations, churches and individuals. Donors' names will all be enshrined on a large painted plaque to be hung in the shelter's entrance hall by the time of the picnic. The shelter also has been the recipient of funds collected during the Empty Bowls campaign, Splash 'n Dash and Young Professionals of Racine's Big Fat Wedding.

Everyone is invited to the hot dog picnic lunch and bake sale.

HALO's doors opened in November 2005 to men, and December 2005 to women and children. For more information, go to HALO's website.

Our story on HALO's second anniversary is HERE.

1 comment:

  1. downtown_racine8/14/2008 3:45 PM

    Seems like a lot of nice and generous folks making a go of this operation helping some of Racines most downtrodden and vulnerable citizens in need. Bravo !