Local Missions: Hillcrest Hope
November 2023 | Edited by Steve Moberg
On October 3, Gashland hosted Hillcrest Hope’s FIRST in-person graduation since the pandemic. Dawn Hamilton, HCH’s Community Engagement Coordinator, said, “After the long pandemic, we were elated to bring graduates, their families, budget counselors, staff and volunteers all together to celebrate once again! Seven graduates were honored at this ceremony for their hard work, dedication and life-changing accomplishments.”
Dawn provided further details about two of those graduates. “Jonathan came to Hillcrest with no rental history and legal issues that prevented him from obtaining stable housing. He has worked extremely hard and continues to build his savings. Jonathan is planning to begin classes in the spring to earn higher wages with his current employer. He has successfully graduated from the program and is looking to move into his own place.
“Kierra and her daughter were traveling out west and were involved in a car accident that left them stranded with no resources and no way home. By the time they were able to return home, they had been evicted and all their possessions had been thrown out. Kierra is determined, ambitious and is working hard to pay down her debt to be ready to move into her own place after graduation.”
Dawn also expressed her appreciation for GEPC. “We are deeply grateful to Gashland EPC for graciously hosting this important event and providing a light dinner, including yummy cupcakes and a beautiful balloon focal point!” Dawn extended special thanks to Joyce Grady for organizing the evening. Joyce reported that she was assisted by Jean Daniels, Kathy Welch, Ernie Slinkard and Sarah Wilson.
If you’re not familiar with this ministry, Hillcrest Hope was established in 1978 with a mission of empowering the homeless and working poor to achieve personal independence through transitional housing, accountability, education, and community support. Gashland supports the Hillcrest Hope pantry in Avondale.
Dawn said not all of the families Hillcrest Hope helps are mothers with young children. “Many are fathers or growing teens. Keeping our pantry stocked with enough food to provide healthy meals for everyone, including hard-working men and ‘ravenous teens’, can be a big challenge! But the regular food drives and pantry support that Gashland EPC provides makes it possible to ensure there is food in every family’s cupboard. Eliminating hunger allows our families to focus on learning life skills and working to be self-accountable.”
Early this year Hillcrest was suddenly without an executive director, but after weeks of consideration, Dawn says the board appointed Dustin Prockish to the position. “Dustin had already been involved with Hillcrest Hope for nearly nine years! He started as a volunteer budget counselor and community member on the program committee. Then he served on the Hillcrest Hope Board of Directors for two years. In August of 2017, he transitioned to a staff role, as the Director of Operations & Development, where he was responsible for leading fundraising efforts as well as data management, human resources and property management.”
Before joining HCH, Dustin served six years as an officer in the United States Air Force, including one deployment to Iraq. He is a Liberty resident and loves working in his woodshop, putting in the miles on his bicycle or hanging out at home with his wife Jen, and daughter Hannah. Dawn said, “Dustin has already made significant strides in the growth and meaningful impact Hillcrest Hope offers to our families and we eagerly anticipate his plans for the future.”
One major part of Hillcrest Hope’s operation is their Thrift Store at 7 West Mill Street in Liberty. Dawn reports that the store is getting some upgrades. “The kitchen is the heart of the family and the Thrift Store’s kitchen is no different. If you have volunteered there you may have noticed the kitchen could use some TLC. We are proud to announce that in the first week of October we began a remodel of the kitchen and two bathrooms. Not only will this create a clean and ADA accessible restroom for customers, it will also brighten the kitchen for our hard working volunteers and staff.”
Sales at the Thrift Store supply OVER 60% of the financial support for Hillcrest Hope’s entire program, which includes housing and utility costs and family case management. “The sales are mostly limited by how many items they can get processed and put out on the sales floor. Short-term, community service volunteers are helpful but require precious time to train and may only return a few times. Vital are the volunteers who show up on a regular, long-term basis, so they can learn a department or two and can begin work without direction from the staff. Before Covid we had about 50 long-term volunteers. We now only have about 25. If you have a couple hours to spend on a weekly basis you can make a huge impact on the success of the Thrift Store and its ability to support Hillcrest Hope’s mission.”
Many other volunteers are needed throughout the year. “If you are handy with a paint brush, vacuum cleaner or love to pull weeds and want to volunteer but can’t commit to a weekly volunteer schedule then this may be for you. We have created small teams of volunteers who can respond when we have occasional needs. Choose between the Paint team, Cleaning team, Maintenance team and Grounds care team. The members of each team are contacted only as needed to help.”
In the past two years, Hillcrest Hope has experienced quite a bit of turnover. Dawn says they have had openings ranging from drivers and cashiers at the thrift store to case managers and office staff. “This makes it hard to provide the services required to support all of our families and even harder for the remaining staff. If you would like to hold Hillcrest Hope in your prayers, our most impactful need right now is to fill all of our current and future job openings with dedicated and talented people who will become long-term employees and part of the Hillcrest Hope family. With the right people, most everything else will fall into place.”