May 2, 2011 4:43:00 AM
Twenty-five years ago, members of Soroptimist International of Columbus watched as a white capsule, tightly sealed, was buried next to a building that represented almost three years'' intense commitment in faith, heart, soul -- and approximately $150,000 in fundraising.
The occasion was a dedication ceremony for House of Hope, a facility to house two agencies: Safe Haven, a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and their children, and Recovery House, a transitional home for women exiting treatment for substance abuse. It was a dream realized for Soroptimists who had undertaken the challenge of providing a physical home for the much-needed programs.
On Tuesday, current and former Soroptimist members gathered at the Columbus Country Club to commemorate the retrieval and opening of the time capsule. It was unearthed Monday, a quarter-century after the dedication, as directed by a granite marker set into the ground above it.
Creating House of Hope was one of the most ambitious service projects ever tackled by a local civic club, although it wasn''t the first big project for Soroptimist. The group had raised about $100,000 in its I Care campaign, to help establish a neonatal intensive care unit for premature babies at the Golden Triangle Regional Medical Center -- now Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle.
But House of Hope would require even more.
Betty Byars Crain chaired the project''s original steering committee formed in 1984. She talked to those gathered Tuesday about its beginnings.
"The club learned almost simultaneously about both of these needs in the community. We had a big service committee meeting and had proponents of both causes, Safe Haven and Recovery House, to present their facts and research," she recalled.
After careful deliberation, Soroptimists voted to go forward on faith, to spearhead a community-wide effort that would result in a permanent facility for not one, but both agencies.
Kathy Read was service chairman when the project was adopted. She was also on hand Tuesday as the capsule''s contents were revealed -- letters from then-members, Commercial Dispatch front pages about the campaign, permits and other significant paperwork that archived the project''s history.
"It just evoked a lot of memories of how long we worked and how hard we worked," Read shared. "I know a lot of people had tears in their eyes."
In the mid-''80s, as agency needs and sites were researched and assessed, House of Hope fundraising was constant. Road blocks, bake sales and raffles of every kind complemented contributions, both monetary and in-kind, made by a generous public. Club speakers talked to any group that would have them. Crain stressed that the club by itself could never have accomplished the goal alone.
"We spearheaded it, but the entire community gave and volunteered, from just about every kind of organization ... This was heaven-sent. We were led into doing this ... "
Still changing lives
"Opening the House of Hope time capsule was a discovery for me," said current Soroptimist president Janet Lewis, whose mother, Josie Fannon, was on the original steering committee and instrumental in the success of House of Hope from start to finish. Fannon was in the audience Tuesday.
"I discovered through the unearthing of this capsule about the service-minded and gutsy ladies who heard of a need, had a dream and took immediate action," Lewis stated. "As I was reading many of the notes and letters, it became very clear how these dedicated and determined Soroptimist members have impacted the quality of life in Columbus. Their dream turned into reality 25 years ago and is still today making a difference and touching lives."
The fact that Safe Haven and Recovery House agencies have both expanded and are very active still today embodies one of Soroptimist''s missions, women helping women.
"It shows just how badly they were needed," said Read. "And those of us who worked on House of Hope were so close to one another; it was just a bond that has never been broken, and I don''t think it ever will be."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.