Community Foundation Proud to Partner with Gardner Emergency Housing Mission (GEHM)

 

Need to have your faith in humanity restored? Meet Renee Eldredge, Reverend Jim Hinds, Theresa Suzor, Eileen O’Shea, and Sabrina Kublbeck - ordinary Gardner citizens who set out to do something extraordinary.

It was Renee who planted the seed. As a care coordinator who works with Heywood Hospital and the Gardner school district, Renee discovered that the city had no emergency housing for local families facing homelessness.

“We know there are more than 40 homeless families in Gardner and there are probably more that we don’t know about,” says Reverend Hinds of Gardner’s First Baptist Church. “While some financial assistance is available that can cover the cost of a few nights in a hotel if people, and families in particular, are not able to stay in town close to where they work and where their children go to school, homelessness is often the beginning of a cataclysmic downward cycle.”

In summer 2016, Renee convened a “focus group” to discuss the issue with representatives from four different churches, from a Veterans outreach organization, and from GAAMHA (Gardner Athol Area Mental Health Association), with Renee representing the Gardner school district.

From that point forward, the group identified itself as Gardner Emergency Housing Mission (GEHM) and began fundraising initiatives to support their goals. Initially, raised funds had to be held in an account with HOPE (House of Peace and Education), since GEHM was not an officially recognized charitable organization. In spring 2017, Renee and Eileen met with Linda Mack to discuss the future of GEHM and through this discussion, the Community Foundation agreed to be the organization’s fiscal sponsor.

In January 2018, GEHM became a state-registered non-profit, and in June 2018, a grant from the Community Foundation ensured the organization had enough funding to apply to become a nationally recognized not-for-profit (501c3 organization).

While GEMH has been able to assist nearly a dozen families since it first got started, the organization is now actively looking for property in Gardner that would enable them to house a family of four for up to six months.

“Over the last year or two, homelessness in Massachusetts has increased by 15%,” stated Reverend Hinds. “We want people to be aware that we are here to help them with temporary housing, counseling and advisory services, and we also want the greater community to know how grateful we are for the support GEHM has received. GEMH has been recognized by Mayor Hawke and Representative Zlotnik as well as hundreds of citizens who have donated at their houses of worship or participated in our annual fundraising walks in August. Together we are fulfilling our mission to ensure that no family in Gardner should have to spend a night without temporary safe housing.”

 

 

About the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts

The Foundation supports the community by giving grants and distributions in the areas of health and human services, education, environment, animal welfare and arts and culture. We are a nonprofit organization, dedicated to helping donors establish permanent endowment funds---benefiting the community forever and creating a lasting legacy for our fundholders. 

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