Hope Center to offer free classes, seeking funds

By Audrey Stanton-Smith

This article was originally written for The Register-Herald (Beckley, WV) by Audrey Stanton-Smith, and has been republished with permission.

A planned community outreach center in the Southern District of the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church is hoping it can raise enough money by month’s end to open in September.

Organizers behind the Hope Center, at 410 West Main Street in Sophia, near the border of Raleigh and Wyoming counties, plan to offer individuals in free homework help and basic classes on life skills, such as financial budgeting, computer literacy, and cooking.

“For many vulnerable individuals, children, families, and seniors living in our local communities of Raleigh and Wyoming counties, experiencing hope in essential daily securities — permanent housing, steady employment, food, clothing — is sometimes in short supply,” explained Hope in the Mountains, Inc., fundraising chair Rev. Betsy M. Evans. “We can make a difference and be a source of hope, support, and encouragement to weave a brighter future.”

Evans serves as pastor of Beckley Community United Methodist Church. She is part of a board of directors for Hope in the Mountains, Inc. — a newly formed 501(c)(3) not-for-profit ecumenical corporation and mission project of the Southern District of the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church — that includes representatives from multiple UM churches in the area, including Sophia United Methodist, which neighbors the new Hope Center in downtown Sophia.

But they need money to complete their purchase of the former doctor’s office and renovate before officially opening. 

“Our goal is to raise $200,000 by June 30, 2021,” Evans said, explaining that more than $40,000 has already been raised and that an anonymous donor has pledged to match personal gifts between $500 and $1,000 received by the end of July. “Those personal gifts from individuals rather than from organizations will be matched dollar for dollar under a $20,000 matching gift program.”

Work has already begun.

“We already have a floor plan put into place for multipurpose classrooms,” Evans said. “And these classes will be for truly practical life skills training — budgeting checkbooks, computer literacy, learning how to cook, general necessary life skills.”

Additional services will include free internet access, a children’s art classroom, programs for seniors and youth, tutoring and homework help for kids, and arts and crafts.

“This will be a safe place for children, adults, and seniors, and it will have an Internet café, so whether it’s being used to complete a resumé or to do homework, or maybe fill out job applications, it will be free for everyone,” Evans said.

Come September, the center will have its own church and community worker, and board members are developing a list of volunteer educators and helpers to carry out the center’s mission of providing practical skills and services to the community. (Interested potential volunteers are encouraged to email hopeinthemountains@earthlink.net for more information.)

“Our programs will be provided through the generosity of appropriately screened and trained volunteers,” Evans explained. “We will be looking for professionals to donate their time.”

The Hope Center does plan to provide emergency assistance with food and clothing, but it won’t be a food pantry and clothing closet, she said. Those services are already provided by other agencies. Instead, “what distinguishes us in the area is that these are practical life skills, practical ways to improve lives.”

Such classes, she said, will be geared toward helping area residents sustain their families.

“We see Hope in the Mountains greatly impacting the lives of people and their ability to get jobs and sustain their families,” Evans said. “We just want to help them better their family and their financial situations.”

Already, Hope in the Mountains has been working closely with schools in the area to identify families in need. 

“There are very limited community resources in that area,” Evans said. “That’s why that particular location was chosen. … And there is a depth of need.”

For more information visit https://www.hopeinthemountains.com, contact the organization via e-mail at hopeinthemountains@earthlink.net, or call 304-252-3435 c/o Rev. Betsy Evans. Tax-deductible donations can be made to Hope in the Mountains, Inc. P.O. Box 1675, Sophia, WV, 25921.