Alfaye Jackson was beaming. It has been ten years for her vision to come to fruition, of a safe house, known as HOPE House, for Rolla area homeless youth. She has been getting lots of help from the community lately that share this vision. They know the homeless youth problem isn’t going away, nor can it be swept under the social carpet, hidden from Rolla’s residents.

The Walmart Distribution Center in St. James recently donated $1000 to cover expenses for a walk-a-thon and general budget. They are also including HOPE House in their regular food donation rotation with any extra foodstuffs absorbed by the network of other benevolent food pantries in town. It will come in handy for Hope, Inc.’s Random Acts of Kindness program. The group is currently making gift bags for Rolla Manor residents. Faith Haven and The Mission are also recipients of the program.
“We just want to be able to give back,” said Alfaye. “Non-profits struggle, so you have to develop other ways of funding and we’re extremely grateful to the Walmart Distribution Center.”

While still in the growth phase, HOPE, Inc. needs to keep a three-month operating budget, so consistent donations are true gifts that buy time until additional funding can be secured.
She mentions local businesses and individuals that have donated their time and talents to make HOPE House a reality. Several rooms were recently added on to the house to accommodate an overnight counselor-mentor, with labor and materials provided by companies and volunteers.
We’re receiving lots of baby and young children’s clothing, so we want to donate to the Pregnancy Resource Center. We can’t use all the items we receive, but it puts us into a position to pay it forward to those that can use it.”

Marla Smith and Sara Lucas were representing the Walmart Distribution Center recently at HOPE House to receive a plaque of gratitude from HOPE, Inc. Though HOPE House is still not a licensed entity, Alfaye wanted to show them the progress that has been made. Once licensed, HOPE House will be able to take four homeless youths off the streets and provide a safe environment with helpful counseling so they can work towards a sustainable healthy living situation.

Sara is a reclaims clerk in charge of donations. Pointing to the pallets of food in cases in the HOPE House garage, she said these donations are from vendors. “The [expiration] date’s good, but it might have been packed wrong, so the vendor tells us to donate it,” she said. “I do several thousand dollars worth of donations each month to organizations in Rolla and the surrounding communities.”
Sarah’s been in charge of the donation program for 16 years, so she knows the specific needs of each organization.
Marla, the human resources manager, said those donations have amounted to $225,000 thus far in the calendar year. Outside of the donations, the distribution center also has a community grant program that is run by a committee of Walmart associates.

Not only is HOPE House ready for its first visitors once they are licensed, with a food pantry operation in progress, it also recently received a 12’ X 16’ loft storage barn from Kenneth Miller, the founder of Classic Buildings in Linn, Mo. James Clark, of Classic Buildings was on hand to see that the large storage building was positioned properly and to receive recognition from HOPE, Inc., as well.
Alfaye said the storage building was needed to handle overflow donations until those could be distributed, so Mr. Miller came to the rescue with a donation to fill that need.
“We’re just so blessed with our community helping to get us off the ground,” said Alfaye. “It has been a faith-walk. This has all been done in God’s time and his glory, and if this isn’t a blessing—you look in the garage, you look at the storage building, you look at the [house] add-on—there are so many people from this community that have come together to get us where we are now.”
“In the back of my mind, I want to say, ‘this is just the beginning,’” she reflected. “It’s not until we get the kids in this house and start providing the service—to be servants, like God has called us to be, to do the work that needs to be done with our youth, will I truly feel we’re on our way.”