Haywood prison project is a finalist in $50,000 challenge
Haywood County learned late Tuesday its entry into the Ty Pennington/Guaranteed Rate Ultimate Neighborhood GiveBack Challenge went from one of 50 finalists to one of the top six.
There will be one final round of Facebook voting that began Tuesday, and will end July 29. By Aug. 1, the winners of the $100,000 challenge will be announced, with the winner receiving $50,000 and help for a day from the Ty Pennington crew, and runners up receiving up to $10,000 each.
The Haywood County project entered into the challenge involves converting the former Hazelwood prison into transitional housing for those who are homeless and using the kitchen in the facility to provide meals to those in need.
The project was entered into the challenge relatively late in the game — May 23 for a competition that began March 25. Individuals show support for a project by online voting, and Haywood’s project had surpassed the votes of all others within the first weekend, receiving more than 2,000 votes by June 9.
In the second round of voting, which included a video submitted on the project, the Haywood prison project took an early lead, which it maintained until voting closed with 3,500 on July 9. This time, Haywood’s project garnered nearly 1,000 more votes than the closest challengers.
“I think we have a good shot of winning the whole thing,” said Nick Honerkamp, senior pastor at New Covenant Church and the board chairman of the Haywood emergency shelter organization. “The big question is whether they think our project is doable. My whole focus has been to provide a master plan and budget, but then to sell them on the idea that our project is scalable.”
There are two dormitory buildings, a central kitchen area, a house that can be used for emergency family shelter and several other buildings on the county-owned property that will be leased by the groups spearheading the effort. Honerkamp said costs are prepared for all aspects, and if the Haywood effort is selected to receive help and $50,000, whatever portion Guaranteed Rate wants to tackle is the place to start.
“We feel confident we have volunteers to do some of the labor and confident we have vendors to donate supplies,” Honerkamp said. “Our focus now is on fundraising, writing grants and trying to get individuals to donate to the effort on the Haywood Pathways Center Facebook page.”
Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher clearly understands the need for this project after seeing inmates released from the county jail with no place to go and no plan to start a better life.
A transitional program where help is available to set goals, take career building classes through existing programs offered in the community and spruce up job skills will be key in keeping the individuals from landing back in jail.
"Our goal is to have our inmates never come back into this facility being charged with a criminal offense," said Christopher.
He acknowledged there are many pieces of the puzzle to be addressed aggressively to prevent this from happening, but said it will be worthwhile on multiple levels.
"We have got to reach out and do different things to get our inmates to see they are not destined to be wearing orange jumpsuits, that there is a way for them to make a living and live in the community as productive citizens," Christopher said.
One of the rules of the campus will be that everyone staying there longer than three days must either volunteer or work, said Honerkamp. As with shelter operations at the former location at Camp New Life, there will be a zero tolerance for alcohol, and those staying in the complex must pass a daily test to remain there.
Entries will be judged on three criteria: impact to the community, a plan in place to execute the idea, and the number of votes received. While online voting is important, it only counts toward 20 percent of the project's success.
"We need to show this project has financial support as well," said Honerkamp, stressing the need to donate to the project and attend future fundraising events being planned.
To help Haywood's prison project advance in the final round of voting, which begins today, supporters will again need to vote online and convince their friends to do the same.
“This will give us a chance to win all three rounds of voting,” Honerkamp said. “It will say ‘this is the project the nation wants done.’ Out of 49 states and 330 projects, all I’m saying is we are the one.”
To vote, visit http://bit.ly/1vJi54g.