DAVID PHELPS BENEFIT CONCERT
WHAT: David Phelps, an award-winning singer, will present a benefit concert for Abilene Hope Haven
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 18
WHERE: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St.
TICKETS: $25, $35, and $75 (VIP, includes hors d’oeuvres and an opportunity to meet Phelps; www.abilenehopehaven.org/
By Loretta Fulton
Three months into his new job as executive director of Abilene Hope Haven, John Cooper had the rug pulled out from under him.
A federal grant that provided 70 percent of the funding for the nonprofit that provides shelter and a path to security for the homeless. Cooper and members of the board of directors got on their knees and prayed for guidance.
“We just believed God wasn’t done with Hope Haven,” Cooper said at the Sept. 27 meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations.
He had reason to believe. When Cooper was 15, he experienced homelessness himself, staying for a short while in a shelter. When he turned 16, his grandparents took him in and provided a stable home. They took him to church for the first time in his life.
He understands the plight of people living at Hope Haven.
“It was only by the grace of God that I was able to escape some of those circumstances myself,” he said.
A benefit concert for Hope Haven will be held Nov. 18 at the Abilene Convention Center, featuring vocal artist David Phelps. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and may be purchased online at www.abilenehopehaven.org
Those top-end tickets include hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to meet Phelps. Only 100 of those tickets are available, and they are popular.
“Those are going faster than the others,” Cooper said.
Proceeds will help pay for all the services provided by Abilene Hope Haven. The agency operates a 21-bed temporary housing unit on Treadaway Boulevard called Bridge 2 Home and an assistance program called Hope Housing Services.
HHS provides housing identification, financial assistance, and case management, with tailored supportive services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
The Bridge 2 Home shelter has undergone a radical change since Cooper arrived, not only in physical appearance but also in atmosphere with an emphasis on “radical hospitality.”
From his own background, Cooper knows how important atmosphere can be in a shelter. So, it’s not just a rhetorical question when he asks, “How would I want to be treated?”
The shelter has new light-colored paint with wall decorations and literal “welcome” mats. Dr. Stephen Baldridge, director of the social work program and an assistant professor of social work at Abilene Christian University, and his family live in the shelter.
Having the director living in the shelter with his family has changed the dynamic of Bridge 2 Home, Cooper said, and sent a message:
“You are our brothers and our sister,” he said, “that’s really how we’re trying to treat them.”
Cooper included a pleas in his talk. He noted that donations from churches accounts for only a small percentage of giving. Only one Bible class donates consistently.
“We’re trying to grow that awareness,” he said.