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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Easy to put focus on the crucial Project Hope

Last week’s essay in this space was a resounding success — not because of me but because everybody loves Roger.

The Roger in this instance is Roger Sustar, who owns Fredon Corp. in Mentor. The message was that he will be honored by the Willoughby Rotary Club on Jan. 27 as a Distinguished Citizen.

That message met with overwhelming approval. And since the luncheon meeting at which he will be honored is open to the public, I hope that translates into a huge audience, because Roger deserves it.

But wait! There is a second honoree, this one in the category of Distinguished Civic Organization, and I promised you that today I would direct your attention to that winner, Project Hope for the Homeless.

It is an equally deserving group, and well-worthy of your attention.

This will all take place at Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe, beginning at 11:30 a.m., and you can reserve your space by calling Clarissa at Merhar’s Nationwide Insurance Agency at 440-946-2040. At $20 per person, it is a bargain indeed.

If you have even a nodding acquaintance with the good deeds that are going on around you in Lake County you have an awareness of the monumental goodness of Project Hope and the many acts of kindness that it dispenses in making life just a bit better for those who are down on their fortunes.

A large story in the paper just a few days ago recounted how the agency is expanding to accommodate a greater number of people.

Thus the existing shelter facility at Freedom Road in Painesville Township will be growing as the needs expand.

The job of directing such a facility requires a person who is part executive, part business manager and a very large part angel, with a large dose of compassion thrown in to make sure the mixture is well-blended and successful.

Thankfully, Judy Burr, the executive director of Project Hope, embodies all of those qualities — and many more.

Thus the operation in humanity is earning greater respect and support with each passing day.

When the Rotary committee that oversees the two awards met to select this year’s winners, the choices were easy.

Roger, although he has received many accolades over the years, including “distinguished” awards from the Mentor Chamber of Commerce, is a resident of Waite Hill. That is in the area served by Willloughby Rotary.

 And Project Hope serves all of Lake County. It does it so well that the recognition is richly deserved.

The basic premise of Project Hope is embodied in its statement of mission, which is to respond to the human hurts and hopes of persons in Lake County who are homeless by providing emergency shelter, care and guidance in the name of and for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Its vision is to be a proactive solution in helping those who are homeless to reach independence.

It emphasizes, however, that Project Hope is not just a place to eat and sleep. It is predominantly an organization that provides a goal-oriented program staffed by people who truly care about the guests’ well being.

The program has three phases and a maximum stay of 90 days. The Salvation Army in Painesville is involved. There is also an aftercare program. Financial support through government is also a factor.

Since 1993, Project Hope has been serving men, women and children who have experienced homelessness.

There have been many heartwarming stories of hope and transformation. It is an agency that believes in teamwork, and working with other agencies it provides the best care possible for shelter guests and other neighbors in need.

From its beginning as a 16-cot, winter-only shelter, it has grown dramatically into a year-round facility with 35 beds that will grow to an estimated 70 beds with an expansion of the men’s dormitory and the addition of a larger women’s dormitory.

The full story of Project Hope’s good deeds is much too extensive to fully recapture here, but I am certain that much more will be said about it during the presentation on Jan. 27.

And although Roger Sustar has been widely acclaimed because of his initiatives in manufacturing and overall good citizenry, I am equally sure the awards program will bring out even more of his sterling character traits that make him one of Lake County’s finest and most highly respected citizens.

A full house at Pine Ridge on Jan. 27 would be a fitting tribute to both Roger and Project Hope.

And you can be a part of it. But reservations are necessary, so call Clarissa at 440-946-2040 and sign up today. It would be appreciated if you were to pay your $20 in advance. But if you insist, you may pay at the door.

The main consideration is just that we want you to be there.


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