What began at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center as a project to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has now evolved into a year-long partnership with the local non-profit Monticello Area Community Action Agency’s (MACAA) Hope House program.

“[…] I really wanted to take the focus away from MLK being celebrated during one month in January or a few weeks in February; MLK’s legacy is something we should try to live by and project throughout the year,” said Jaronda Miller, Program Director of Engaged and Global Scholarship at the Center who established the “MLK Women’s Hope Project” this year. “[The project] utilizes the words of Dr. King as a model to be of service and to be purposeful in that service. The Women’s Center, at its core, is about service to others, but with this project, we get to demonstrate to the larger community that we understand King’s message to be ongoing, unwavering and purposeful.”

The MACAA website describes Hope House as a program within the agency, established in 1988, that “provides housing and intensive case management for families experiencing homelessness or who are in imminent danger of becoming homeless or split up and housed in separate locations. By addressing the circumstances that contribute to each family’s specific situation and impede their ability to secure and maintain stable, permanent housing, the program helps strengthen these families as they position themselves to secure housing and maintain a healthy family environment.”

As a part of the nationwide Community Action network, and mandated by the Federal Government to address poverty, MACAA’s Hope House offers a unique approach in Charlottesville in that people are able to live as a family unit – they have their own apartment and there is no shared space with others. Other shelters in Charlottesville have communal living situations with a shared kitchen and living room.

“Hope House brings the family together as a unit, and we offer whatever that family needs to move forward,” said Hope House Director Nancy Kidd. “We are unique in that we look at that family as a unit, we look at each family member as an individual, we see the needs of the whole family, and we motivate them to grow and move forward.”

Miller, alongside Kidd, firmly believes that the Center’s mission shares similarities with Hope House’s mission in that they are both firmly committed to “social change” and “advocating to improve the lives of women and girls in our community.”

“By partnering with each other, this allows both the Women’s Center and Hope House to demonstrate the power of working together to enhance the lives of those who need it most,” Miller said. “I think Dr. King would agree and would be very proud of the work we intend to do. Not to mention that working with the MLK Women’s Hope Project will be an invaluable engaged scholarship opportunity for our interns.”

Sydney Shelton, fourth year student in Women, Gender and Sexuality at U.Va. and intern at the Women’s Center attended a recent Family Selection Committee Meeting, at the invitation of MACAA. The committee was reviewing four candidates out of eight applicants for an immediate opening at Hope House.

“Being a WGS major, I have learned a great deal about domestic violence and how extremely difficult it can be for women to leave and stay away from their abusers because they don’t have any other options,” Shelton said. “My heart went out to the many women and children who are currently living in difficult situations who suffered abuse. The meeting revealed that Hope House is doing truly amazing and important work. What a great organization and group of people!”

According to Kidd, eight out of ten families across the board – just prior to coming to Hope House or some time in their lives – have been victims of domestic violence.

“One thing that we want to do in this program is teach women how to value themselves,” Kidd said. “Predominantly, we work with women and often, they have been victimized as women and as girls. So what we’re trying to do is raise that self-esteem and that self-confidence […] We want them to know they are strong and that they can go forward and achieve. We want their little boys and girls to see that too.”

As MACAA celebrates its 50th year of service to Charlottesville and the surrounding counties, the organization is honored to be named the 2015 beneficiary of the 40th running of the Charlottesville Ten Miler on March 21, 2015. Funds will benefit the Hope House and Steps to Success programs.

There are several ways to support the Hope House through the Ten Miler:

  1. Register as a runner. Each runner can choose which program they wish their pledges to go toward when registering for the race.
  2. Sponsor a runner. Visit this link on the MACAA website to read about some of the runners and the programs they are representing on their run. Again, you may designate your contribution to the program of your choice.
  3. Make a cash contribution to the program of your choice.
  4. Volunteer on Race Day by signing up on the Ten Miler website.

One mother currently in the Hope House program will be running the race in honor of the program, as well as in gratitude for the restoration of her health, as she is in remission from breast cancer.

“These are people who have had a setback in their lives, and now they’re working really hard to overcome those things and we look forward to great days ahead for them,” Kidd said of those in the Hope House program. “I want to be able to showcase that at the Ten Miler so that the people from the Hope House can come in and rub shoulders with everyone else and feel that they are a part of the community and that they’re not singled out as homeless folk […]”

Story and photo by Agnes Filipowski