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Hope Center refocuses to help those in need

Open House scheduled for Oct. 1, fundraiser slated for Nov. 5

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 16, 2015

 A new salon at the center will be open to both clients and non-clients after its official unveiling at the Oct. 1 open house.

A new salon at the center will be open to both clients and non-clients after its official unveiling at the Oct. 1 open house.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec

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FRASER — More than five years since its inception, Fraser’s Hope Center continues to evolve.


The center, located at 33222 Groesbeck Highway in Fraser, is an operation with the sole purpose to help those in need — mostly in the form of food.


Sarah Ferrington, the community-donor relations coordinator at Hope Center, works on both sides of the coin to keep the operation successful: She works with the community to spread the word about the center’s services, and she also reaches out to businesses to give them an opportunity to give back in the form of donations.


Ferrington, a part-time employee, has worked at the center since October 2014. Since August 2013, though, the center has undergone a new look under Executive Director Steve Gibson.


Rather than resort to its old business model of a supermarket-style food system that was coupled with selling old office furniture to make ends meet, Hope Center wants to become more acclimated with the public while offering more services.


For example, a salon will open Oct. 1 that will offer clients and nonclients alike the opportunity to receive haircuts inside the center. The cost will be $3 for clients, $10 for male nonclients and $15 for female nonclients. Stylists will donate their time, and the money goes back into the center for goods and services.


Upstairs contains a space, formerly used by the Macomb Homeless Coalition that has been renovated to be a training center for budgeting classes.


And along with a retooled food pantry area comes a new place for people to hang out, which is called The Well Café.


“We just wanted a place where clients could come in, get a cup of coffee and maybe a bagel or a muffin and sit down — because eventually we’ll have some pub tables where people can sit down and relax, or just shop around with their coffee and feel their dignity come back to them,” Ferrington said.


Future goals may include a deck overhang, with possibly Wi-Fi available to the community so the marketplace has more substance to it.


Most of the furniture that used to pack the large back storage room has been sold since 2013, and the center looked into an aquaponics system that would provide fresh fruits and vegetables 365 days a year. But after initial estimates didn’t factor in some aspects, the project currently has a wait-and-see approach.


Yet as things change, some things also stay the same.


Hope Center has three part-time employees, including Ferrington, and four full-time employees. Sixty volunteers work every day, sifting through shipments from Forgotten Harvest — the center’s biggest food source — and stocking shelves. The volunteers work in shifts, either from 9 a.m. to noon or from noon to 3 p.m.


Something else that doesn’t go away is hunger, which is still the No. 1 need for people who come in and apply as part of the food-receiving process.


In the pantry area, food sits on circular wooden shelves, and each shelf has a certain limit of what can be taken by each family. For example, a box of pasta may have a limit of two while there are 20 different loaves of bread that can be picked up and frozen at home for longer sustainability.


Limits do not depend on family size. Also, rather than going by the old poundage limits, this system better fits the monetary criteria of the center.


“That’s just because we’ve had a decline in food donations and a decline in grant funding, so we kind of had to do something to even it out,” Ferrington said. “Of course if we have an influx, the limits will change.”


Anyone can walk in to the Hope Center and submit all of their expenses and income each visit in case their circumstances change. Hope Center continuously applies for family and corporate grants, conducts fundraising efforts and builds relationships throughout the surrounding community.


Ferrington, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Michigan, is actually a former stylist who wanted to change her own lifepath.


It was time for a change, she said, one in which she did things in a more collaborative environment that was about more than a person’s hair or their appearance.


After seeing the same people come in all the time — from single mothers with young children, to the elderly who are on a fixed budget and can’t pay for their prescriptions, to anyone else in need — she said the problem will always exist.


“That’s when they feel like they’re in a spot in their life where they need help,” Ferrington said. “I feel like we’re always going to be there for people like that. I don’t think it’s been either greater or worse; I think we kind of stay the same no matter what the situation is with the economy.


“We will always help the single moms, the elderly, those with disabilities because that’s our goal and our mission. There are those that need to be helped and that’s OK. We just want to take the ones that have been here to go get a job, that can go back and sustain themselves to get back in the mindset that they can help provide for themselves instead of us always providing for them too.”


Being in a downward spiral is something everyone tries to avoid, but it happens to many — usually when they least expect it.


“You see people that look like you and me, and they had a great job and a great life and they just had a hardship and something fell upon them and they’re now needing to ask for food,” she said. “I think some of us are one to two paychecks away from that, and that’s the sad part, because how we live and how we budget, we’re at that point where if something drastic happened to us, what would we do?”


The Hope Center is having an open house from 4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 1 at its headquarters. On Thursday, Nov. 5, its first annual A Taste of Hope fundraiser will take place at Zuccaro’s Banquet Center in Chesterfield Township.


Visit www.hopecentermacomb.org for more information.

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