Capital campaign goal reached for new homeless shelter

by Sonja J. Keith

Conway will soon have a new homeless shelter.

Efforts to raise $1.3 million for a new facility have been successful, according to Judi Lively, executive director of Bethlehem House. The announcement was made last week at the Josh Wilson concert at Woodland Heights Baptist Church. The event added $10,000 to the capital campaign.

“It pushed us over the $1.3 million goal,” Lively said. “We had to reach it by the end of the year to get the Mabee and Windgate foundation grants. We knew we were very close…We expected it to happen by that event.”

Stacia and Johnny Adams were co-chairs of the Hope for the Homeless capital campaign.

Lively said those involved in the campaign have worked diligently the last 18 months to reach the goal, which is a significant accomplishment in light of the economy and other fundraising efforts in the community. “That’s a phenomenal amount of money to come in during that length of time,” she said. “More than two-thirds has come from this community.”

In February, two grants and a lead corporate gift were announced to kick off the public phase of the campaign. Conway Corporation, which operates the city-owned electric, water, wastewater, cable internet and cable television utility services for the citizens of Conway, provided a lead gift of $250,000.

The city of Conway has also awarded $150,000 through the Community Development Block Grant Program.

“I don’t think you could pick a better place to live and work. The people really care about one another.”

The J. E. and L. E. Mabee Foundation Inc., a Delaware non-profit corporation, has provided a matching grant of $230,000. The Windgate Charitable Foundation, based in Siloam Springs, has also awarded a matching grant for $200,000.

Lively said you see that outpouring of support and compassion for neighbors in other places when there are natural disasters. “In Conway, I think you see it every day.”

The 100-year-old Victorian house on Faulkner Street that has housed the Bethlehem House mission since it began in 1991 is in desperate need of immeasurable costly repairs.

While the fundraising efforts have taken place over the last year and a half, a new shelter has been needed for some time. “There’s no telling how long we’ve been trying to get the money for this facility,” Lively said, explaining that she has been involved at Bethlehem House for 10 years. “It’s been a discussion that pre-dates me.”

The planned 7,200-square-foot facility will allow Bethlehem House to provide transitional housing for 35 residents in one location and up to eight people in emergency situations – a much-needed resource that doesn’t exist in Faulkner, Perry or Conway counties.

The new facility will be handicap accessible and include a playroom for kids. “There’s no place inside for them to play unless it’s in the dining area,” Lively said of the current shelter.

The new facility will also have a larger dining room and kitchen that will better accommodate the soup kitchen that Bethlehem House offers every night. Currently, about 40 are fed each night.

There will also be a multi-purpose room equipped with computers for residents to use in job searches.

Soon, workers for Nabholz Construction will begin work on the Duncan Street site, located a few blocks north of the current facility. “We are already in the process of getting building permits,” Lively said. “We expect to start shortly after the first of the year.” Construction is expected to take eight to 10 months.

“I think we will celebrate Thanksgiving in our new facility next year.”

Lively is appreciative of the capital campaign committee and its work. “I think the committee that has worked on this has done an amazing job.”

For more information or to make an online donation to Bethlehem House, please visit