How $52 built the Byrne Community House and Family Shelter
How can you turn $52 into $1.6 million? One compelling story at a time, according to former board member and Haven fundraising consultant Suzanne Stofflet, who helped perform this feat of magic. “It was 2000 or 2001 and we had just launched a capital campaign to build a new building,” Stofflet recalls.
Former Managing Director Tom Ketteridge picks up the story, describing the Haven’s space challenges. “We could only house four families in the old farmhouse [now the site of the Hixon House Adult Shelter]. The Food Shelf was in the basement. We couldn’t buy a lot of food because we had no place to put it,” he explains. The price tag for the new building was big—$1.6 million—more than the Haven had ever raised. Some wondered if it could be done.
Then a former shelter guest showed up at the farmhouse to visit Mary Feeney, who, with her husband, Paul, served as the Haven’s host couple. She told Mary that she was doing well. She had, in fact, gotten a job at a factory and had asked her employer to set aside $1 each week. At the year’s end, she had a check for $52. “I heard you want to build a bigger family shelter,” she said, handing Mary the check. “Go build your new shelter.”
Stofflet was so moved by the story that she made a copy of the check. “I took it with me when I went on fundraising calls and told the story,” she says. “We raised the $1.6 million we needed.”
Thanks to the capital campaign’s success, the Haven was able to break ground for the new building in 2004 and move into the facility in 2005. Named the Byrne Community House and Family Shelter in honor of philanthropists Jack and Dorothy Byrne, the building had space for eight families as well as room for the Food Shelf and administrative offices. “It changed everything,” Ketteridge notes.
Now retired, Stofflet looks back fondly at that first capital campaign. “I still have a copy of that check,” she concludes.