Hospitality House reaches 10th anniversary milestone today (VIDEO) |

Hospitality House reaches 10th anniversary milestone today (VIDEO)


What: Holiday open house at Hospitality House to celebrate its 10th anniversary

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 5

Where: 1262 Sutton Way, Grass Valley

Tours and refreshments available


Fall 2004: Facing a wet, cold winter, a group of concerned residents discuss a vision of helping homeless people in western Nevada County by providing shelter and food during the winter months. Among them were Cindy Maple, Margaret Little, Rev. Don Lee, Janice O’Brien, Karen Terpening, Utah Phillips and Joanna Robinson. First official meeting of Hospitality House Board of Directors in November.

As the winter wore on, Jim Ward, Doug Lautzenhiser, Mary O’Brien, Mark Schlak, Theresa Lyon, Sue Gill and Frank Desplancke joined the team. That summer, Foothill House of Hospitality formed as an official non-profit organization.

Hospitality House decides to operate as a nomadic shelter, moving nightly between different faith communities. Guests meet at a Welcome Center, then travel by bus to the faith community’s facility at night, and return to the Welcome Center in the morning. In addition, faith communities and other volunteers provide meals and fellowship for guests.

Summer 2005: Foothill House of Hospitality forms as an nonprofit organization. Later that month, to determine the number of locals in need, Hospitality House organizes a one-day count, which sends dozens of volunteers out to scour the county, spreading word of the planned shelter and surveying the needs of the homeless. The effort identifies 238 people without a roof of their own — including 42 children.

Nov. 5, 2005: Hospitality House begins as a rotating shelter program service homeless individuals. Eight local churches partner to provide a hosting facility and/or a meal. Welcome Center operates in small room at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley.

Dec. 2005: JR Lang MD began providing weekly medical clinic. Hospitality House moved into its new Welcome Center at 438B Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley. Volunteers and guests created a homey atmosphere, and showers and laundry facilities became available to guests.

Sept. 2006: Moves to current Welcome Center on South Church Street.

Dec. 2006: First Night of Giving event organized; produced by Mikail Graham

Jan. 2007: First Empty Bowl fundraising event held at St. Canice Hall in Nevada City

May 2007: Summer daytime shelter program is created.

April 2008: Art for the Heart fundraiser held at Center for the Arts, produced by local artist Elieen Blodgett.

May 2008: Hospitality House cofounder Utah Phillips passes away. Hundreds attend memorial service at Pioneer Park in Nevada City.

June 2008: Hospitality House participates in first cleanup of trash at homeless camps, partnering with Grass Valley Police Department Liaison Officer Gary McClaughry, who worked alongside of guests and staff to clean up and haul away tons of garbage.

July 2008: First Bella Nota fundraising event produced by Indian Springs Vineyards.

Jan. 2009: Coordinated Homeless Count event in partnership with Continuum of Care Collaborative. Subsequent counts held in January 2011 and 2013.

Sept. 2009: Program extended from six months per year to nine months per year.

Oct. 2009: Awarded first Federal Emergency Shelter grant in the amount of $200,000 for two-year term.

March 2010: Received Prevention and Early Intervention funding from Nevada County Behavioral Health Department to provide outreach services to unsheltered homeless individuals.

Oct. 2010: Awarded $1 million Emergency Housing and Assistance Program Capital Development Grant to purchase and help renovate a building into a 54-bed homeless shelter.

Jan 2011: Directed by staff monitor Chad Conner-Crow, Hospitality House band “Home Free” is featured on CBS news.

March 2011: Hospitality House partners with Nevada City, Nevada County and other service agencies to open warming center in at Nevada City Veterans hall.

May 2011: Build a Shelter Day fundraiser held for Utah’s Place at the Holiday Inn Express in Grass Valley. Dunk dank is hit of the day, with District Attorney Cliff Newell and former The Union Publisher Jeff Ackerman each taking a turn in the tank to support Hospitality House.

Sept. 2011: Hospitality House officially becomes a year-round shelter.

Oct. 2011: Closes escrow on 6,500 square foot building with plans to renovate into a 54-bed emergency homeless shelter. Bill Litchfield subsequently chosen as contractor.

Sept. 2012: Homeless Response Team iscreated in partnership with Nevada County Behavioral Health Department and Grass Valley Police Department.

Oct. 2012: First “Think Outside the Cardboard Box” fundraising event is organized.

Dec. 2012: Hospitality House is awarded Emergency Solution Grant funding to provide Rapid Re-Housing program serving area homeless individuals.

March 26, 2013: Ground-breaking ceremony on Utah’s Place marks beginning of construction slated for June completion.

- The Union staff

Eight guests wandered into Hospitality House on its first night, finding a warm place to sleep in a shelter that opened only four days each week and kept moving its location.

That was 10 years ago today. Initially a seasonal shelter that operated out of churches, Hospitality House now has a permanent location. Workers teach its guests cooking skills while others search for permanent housing. Washers and dryers run nonstop.

“On our anniversary I’m reflecting on how much Hospitality House has accomplished in the last 10 years,” said Cindy Maple, the shelter’s executive director. “I’m remembering the hundreds of people that came through our doors and found help and comfort. It’s been an amazing journey. Though we still have work to do in our community, we’ve made an incredible amount of progress in 10 years.”

Hospitality House grew from a group of people who wanted a homeless shelter in Nevada County.

“If I was ever hopeless or thought life had no meaning, I have no question now. I see it in the incessant kindness that happens at Hospitality House. It just puts you in your heart and keeps you there. There’s no better place to be.”Joanna Robinson

Their discussion, which began in 2004, turned into research. They learned about different kinds of shelters and decided what would work for this community, said Joanna Robinson, the shelter’s development director.

After months of planning Hospitality House opened its doors. At first it was a nomadic shelter, moving to a different church each day.

The guests would check in at the same church, which served as a welcome center, and then get bused to that night’s location.

The shelter was seasonal for its first few years of operation.

Its workers would extend its months of operation with each year, though it wasn’t enough.

They quickly realized that any progress their guests made was lost when the shelter closed.

That helped with the push to open a year-round shelter in 2010.

Over the years the welcome center changed locations, first to an apartment and then a two-story home.

A $1 million grant in 2013 enabled the shelter to buy and renovate what became Utah’s Place at 1262 Sutton Way in Grass Valley.

According to Maple, the shelter has served about 2,000 people since it opened.

It currently has 15 employees and about 300 volunteers, including food groups, Robinson said.

“On our anniversary I think, what are we going to do now?” Maple said.

“We have 54 beds. It’s still not enough.”

For Robinson, her 10-year journey with the shelter has been spiritual. She’s watched as thousands of people have volunteered over the shelter’s life.

“If I was ever hopeless or thought life had no meaning, I have no question now,” Robinson said. “I see it in the incessant kindness that happens at Hospitality House. It just puts you in your heart and keeps you there. There’s no better place to be.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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