Virtual is the new normal in the time of COVID, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
At least that’s what Kimberly Braun, development director of Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, or HOPE, believes. And she is inviting the community to discover just that at the Longmont nonprofit’s annual fundraising gala on Friday.
The event, Celebrate HOPE, will be an “interactive production,” Braun said, which not only means video, slides and live speakers and music streamed to attendees’ screens, but also a few touches meant to make it feel like a party instead of a Zoom call.
Those who register at certain donation thresholds — the $100 “HOPE Partaay” package for up to 10 people and the $50 single/couple package — will get access to the live event and also receive “gala kits” complete with wine and surprise goodies.
In addition, the packages provide attendees with access to mobile games that launched on Monday and the chance to bid in a paddle raiser auction.
There also are $10 “Welcome Home to HOPE” tickets for $10 with event and auction access and credit toward mobile games.
Braun said the gala is the principal way donors support HOPE, and it is even more important this year as the nonprofit has tripled its programming in response to COVID. Key to that tripling has been a new day shelter, which, since it opened in April, is seeing about 600 people a month, according to Braun. The day shelter was opened in response to many services shutting down and buildings closing because of the pandemic. It also provides food and showers, internet access and services, such as tax preparation assistance.
The nonprofit in June launched its SafeLot program that allows those living in their cars to park overnight and receive meals and have access to showers and computers.
HOPE also provides overnight shelter for the homeless, a bicycle distribution program and a warehouse where people — homeless or not — can pick up essentials such as clothing and toiletries.
“If you’re teetering on the edge, you can come and knock on our door and we will provide it to you,” Braun said.
All of those efforts will be part of the theme on Saturday, with the the focus on what “COVID has been like in our community at large when it comes to homelessness, how we responded to it, how we continue to respond, and looking to the future as we continue serving Longmont and growing,” Braun said.
She has not set a fundraising target because of the new virtual format, but said “it would be awesome if we could make $100,000.”
Among those cheering for the fundraiser to be successful online is Luis.
A mobile automotive mechanic, he has experienced firsthand how HOPE changes lives.
He and his wife were living with their 10-year-old nephew, who they adopted after the death of his wife’s sister, at his in-laws’ house. The home was the site of constant drinking, profanity and fighting, and was not a good environment for a child who is old enough to know what is happening, said Luis, whom the Leader is not identifying by his full name to protect the family’s privacy.
To make a change, Luis made some repairs to a pop-up trailer and the three of them were living out of it, moving it around. That, too, wasn’t an ideal life for a 10-year-old boy, Luis said.
“I didn’t want this child to be in a trailer for a while,” he said.
Enter HOPE, which not only helped the family with clothing and food while living in the trailer, but also helped them find an apartment with a recommendation from Executive Director Joseph Zanovitch, who Luis said “is like an angel.”
It was the stability the family needed to start building their better life, Luis said.
“They really help,” he said. “They put people on the right track. There’s nothing they can’t help with.”
***Celebrate HOPE starts at 7 p.m. Friday. For more information or to register, click here.