Children’s Hope Alliance received $65,000 in grant funding to renovate the basement of the newly opened Hawthorn Heights shelter in Bryson City. The program moved to a much larger, 3,200 sq. ft. ranch on a full basement in Bryson City at the end of last year after extensive renovations. Construction opened up the common areas, made room for a larger kitchen and better food storage, converted the four bedroom home to a nine bedroom residential facility and added required safety features.

With renovations completed on the upstairs, Children’s Hope Alliance plans to renovate the full basement. The additional space will be repurposed for a conference room, tutoring space, two staff offices, a bedroom and bathroom for staff, and storage. The offices will be used for the supervisor and other program staff, while the conference room will be used for meetings and enrichment classes for teens. An additional bedroom and bathroom are needed to accommodate full staffing.

Children’s Hope Alliance President and CEO John Koppelmeyer says “this space is critical in offering a better coordination of care, a higher quality of care, and a shelter that is safe for the teens and staff alike. Furthermore, the services provided to the youth will be in one location, which will create efficiency and savings in programming funds.” Youth will learn independent living skills to better prepare them for the world ahead. Additionally, there will be adequate space to operate our Aftercare program, critical to continued success for the youth served.

Community and Regional support for the project has been strong. The Evergreen Foundation works to improve access to treatment and support of individuals and families with intellectual/developmental disabilities or behavioral health and/or substance abuse needs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.  The Waynesville charity awarded $40,000 for the renovations.  The Glass Foundation, is a private family foundation based in Asheville and seeks to help the Western North Carolina region thrive as a whole community educationally, environmentally, and culturally.  The foundation awarded $20,000 for the project.  The First Presbyterian Church of Highlands considers itself mission oriented and reached out to support troubled youth with a $5,000 grant.  All three organizations also financially supported the first floor renovations recently completed.

Approximately 50 children per year are referred by the Department of Social Services, Juvenile Justice, school counselors, or self-refer and admitted into the shelter. Referral reasons can include homelessness, running away from home, truancy, delinquency, abuse, or neglect. The programming at Hawthorn Heights provides a chance to intervene early when youth are in crisis, often averting future dysfunction and more costly interventions.  During their 90 day stay, each child receives medical care, educational support, and individual, group and family counseling to address the challenges they face.  Much of the program’s work to help youth overcome their challenges will happen in basement’s offices and conference room.

Hawthorn Heights serves youth ages 12-17 from Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties and is the only such shelter west of Asheville. CHA leaders expect the basement renovations to take three months to complete.