Monday, 19 November 2018 21:30

Forest of Hope raises nearly $17k for Place of Grace

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Forest of Hope, this weekend's fundraiser for Place of Grace, raised nearly $17,000 for the rescue mission's programs. Forest of Hope, this weekend's fundraiser for Place of Grace, raised nearly $17,000 for the rescue mission's programs. Betty McIntyre

EAST ROCKINGHAM — The halls of Place of Grace were decked with Christmas cheer this past weekend as brightly lit trees, along with decorated wreaths, greeted all those who entered.

The Forest of Hope event, which raised around $17,000, was centered around Christmas and created to support— as well as expand — the rescue mission’s services which are provided to the homeless. 


Donated Christmas trees, wreaths, and more filled the old Rohanen Middle School gym which was turned into a winter wonderland Nov. 15-17. Donations came from local businesses as well as individuals and were auctioned off through a silent auction. 

There were several activities for the children which included photo opportunities as well as lots of Christmas surprises. Rockingham Middle School’s band and guitar ensemble played several Christmas songs for attendees to hear.

Sponsors got special treatment Thursday night as all attending enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres as well as musical performances. A special presentation of the rescue mission’s vision was shared, and plaques were presented to each sponsor during the appreciation. Friday night kicked off the silent auction, and “The Polar Express” played for all who desired to attend.

A barbecue plate fundraiser was held Saturday as executive chef Steve Dibble volunteered his services to the mission. Dibble has 32 years of experience in food services, including 23 years in culinary education. 

He will be volunteering his services to the program teaching culinary classes to help others acquire skills for the workplace. A nonprofit restaurant will be incorporated within the rescue mission which will be part of the hands-on program for residents. Catering services will also be offered in hopes to employ some of the residents to ready them for the workforce.

Several of those already receiving services from the rescue mission were also volunteering their time with the barbecue fundraiser including: AJ, Sully, Billy Hunt, Alford Powell and Shon Barton. 

Outreach Coordinator Matthew Davis said that he “thanked Jesus for it all.”

Powell, who has been attending for four and a half months, mentioned said he is most look forward to the culinary class.

“I think it’s a wonderful program which allows people who are homeless like myself to have somewhere stable to stay, and most of all a chance to get closer to God,” he said.

Dibble also mentioned there will be a soup kitchen in which he will be volunteering his culinary skills. This will supply all the meals for the shelter as well as an outreach for the community. It will be pay-as-you-can; no one will be turned down for a meal. 

“You will be fed one way or another,” he said. “If you cannot pay, you will be asked to volunteer.”

A contest was held for all guests to vote on their favorite decorated item. All proceeds from the silent auction went to benefit the Richmond County Rescue Mission. 

“It’s been a blessing to all in raising awareness which is the key to success,” said Pastor Gary Richardson. 

Place of Grace acquired the school back in August of this year with the vision to be an outreach to the homeless. It currently has the ability to only serve men, but is gearing towards serving women, children, and veterans also. 

The men’s discipleship program has already begun which includes six weeks of intense character building, biblically based discipleship. Afterwards, plans are in the making for residents to have the opportunity to learn different trades so they can begin to support themselves as well as their families. 

Some of these trades will include welding, brick masonry, auto mechanics, and culinary arts. GED classes are in the plans to be offered on the campus of Place of Grace in the near future as well as money management skills, household skills, and normal everyday direction in life. 

An addiction recovery program is also offered every Monday and Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. to anyone who desires to attend. Assistance in placement for long-term recovery is offered for anyone who is in need at low or no cost as well as no insurance being required. 

In speaking with Pastor Ernie Walters, he stated “We’ve been here for three months and now things are beginning to take shape, said Pastor Ernie Walters. “The community is becoming more aware of our outreach; the ministries are actually happening.”

 He also mentioned partners are still needed to help, as they still have many building upgrades to take place before they can further expand. 

“We still cannot accommodate women, children and veterans, which is our ultimate goal,” Walters added.

An after-school program is also offered in which more than 24 children are currently enrolled. The children take taekwondo classes, learn sign language, make crafts, and receive help with homework. A snack and meal are also provided.  

Place of Grace leaders would like to thank the community and all involved in making Forest of Hope a success.

There are also a few pre-lit, decorated trees left along with a few other items available for sale.

 A winter coat drive is now taking place through Dec. 15, and residents are encouraged to consider donating new or gently used coats. Sponsors, donations, and volunteers are needed. Contact 910-206-2339 for more information.