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Haywood Pathways welcomes first guests, continues renovation

fr pathwaysAt T-minus three days until the scheduled opening day for Haywood Pathways Center, Nick Honerkamp still wasn’t sure how to answer the big question: will the shelter open?

“That is the question of the week,” said Honerkamp, one of the leaders of the effort, Wednesday (Nov. 12) morning.

A trip down to the Pathways campus in Hazelwood, which used to be a state prison, showed in short order why Honerkamp hedged his words. Beds had been delivered but were still unpacked, the bathrooms had a definitive lack of finished polish, and the campus was full of contractors working, volunteers doing odd jobs and leaders like Honerkamp and construction manager Dale Burris conferencing about how it was all going to get done in time. 

“You’re dealing with skilled labor and you’re dealing with volunteers and inspections, and all those things take time,” Honerkamp explained. 

Unlike the three-day blitz in September when hundreds of volunteers descended on the site to paint, clean and landscape, the work remaining was the stop-and-go kind that required a little bit of work, a wait for an inspection, and then a bit more work. 

In perhaps one of the most telling on-site scenes, a cup of empty coffee lay atop a weathered copy of site plans laid out in the kitchen. 

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“My assistant says, ‘I know you love our congregation, so please don’t talk to any of them this week. You’re too crabby,’” joked Honerkamp, who also serves as senior pastor at New Covenant Church in Clyde. 

But by Saturday night, some missing pieces had come together, and Haywood Pathways was able to open one of its dormitories, giving eight people a place to stay as temperatures dipped below freezing. 


Still building 

With no kitchen yet functioning, those in need of shelter met at The Open Door in Frog Level for a hot meal, caught a ride over to Pathways for the night and then were taken back to Frog Level for breakfast. Since only one dorm was open, it took some improvisation to house male and female guests. But Honerkamp counts the weekend as a win. 

“I’m very proud of where we are today with the community support,” he said. “We had another dozen volunteers out there on Saturday doing some finishing touches. I feel like everyone involved has worked really hard to get that Nov. 15 deadline.”

The chilly weather might have offered some additional motivation. According to the National Weather Service, the first half of November in Asheville averaged 44.1 degrees, the 17th coldest out of 123 years of data. 

Honerkamp expects the second dorm to open sometime this week and the kitchen to follow suit around the end of the month. 

“We’ve been focusing our primary energies on the other two dormitories, so we’ve put The Open Door as the third in priority to get it done for this phase one, so we’re just a little bit behind,” said Perry Hines, executive director of The Open Door. “We have to finish framing the bathrooms and just some minor construction work.”

Hines is aiming to have the kitchen in Hazelwood up and running by the end of the month. The plan is to keep the meals in Hazelwood limited to just Haywood Pathways residents for the first couple of months and then in January open the dinner invitation to the community at large. The Frog Level campus will continue to run as normal. 

“There’s a great need for food assistance in all the tangible ways in Haywood County, so the extra meal can obviously help a lot of people who are struggling, having to buy fuel oil instead of food,” Hines said. 


Raising the cash 

As construction finishes up on the site, Haywood Pathways will start switching gears from planning for building to planning for programming. But the fundraising for both will be ongoing. 

“There is some sentiment out there that we’re finished, that we’re OK, that we’ve raised enough money, and that is not the case,” Honerkamp said. “This is an expensive project.”

Honerkamp estimates that Haywood Pathways still needs about $100,000 for the construction side of things — enough to finish construction, pave the parking lot and have a little left over for the operational funds to get started. 

The goal is to get that money raised by April, so that the community can go on to support the next big idea. The project’s already had some big wins where funding is concerned — $50,000 from Guaranteed Rate for the national Neighborhood Give Back Challenge that Haywood Pathways won, another $50,000 from Lowe’s and several big-ticket donations. Those dollars, Honerkamp pointed out, have, by design, all come from outside Haywood County. 

“We’re trying to get outside of here to bring in as much money as we can so we don’t gut the rest of the nonprofits over the Christmas season,” Honerkamp said. 

For example, he said, “we went to national vendors to ask them to give us stoves, HVAC, and we’ve been very successful at it.”

But once construction’s done, each of the three Christian groups making up Haywood Pathways Center will have to forge its own path toward financial sustainability. Haywood Pathways is a location — it will be each individual organization’s responsibility to fund its programs. 

“We’re kind of the new kid on the block,” said Jim Haynes of Next Step, an emerging halfway house for people getting out of jail. “The homeless shelter’s been around for a while, The Open Door’s been around for a while, and here we are.”

So, while the other two organizations already have a donor base and general fundraising plan for existing operations, Next Step is starting from scratch. Though Haynes categorized Next Step fundraising as “slow,” he said that they’ve gotten a few grants and cautioned that fundraising isn’t yet in full swing, as the emphasis right now is on raising money to get the construction end of the project done. 

And that’s not to say that the other two organizations won’t have financial needs. Though the homeless shelter and soup kitchen do have donors and partners in place, expanding their ministries this way will require some extra dollars. 

Honerkamp, who directs the shelter, said an annual fundraiser is probably in the works, as is continued grant writing. Hines said he believes that it can be done, but the process is a “faith walk.”

“Can we do it? I am confident we can, but of course it’s always a faith walk when you do anything new,” Hines said. “I definitely think it’s something that’s very doable with God’s help through the people of Haywood County.”

One thing that’s pretty undeniable is that the people of Haywood County are behind Haywood Pathways. Their votes launched the project to a decisive number one in a nationwide contest of more than 300 community development projects, and their hands painted the walls, sanded the railings and planted the gardens.

All in all, 1,500 people came out to help over the last two months, about 1,000 of whom were in their 20s or younger. 

“So many times the older generation thinks the younger generation doesn’t want to work, and I have seen just the opposite,” Honerkamp said. 

But it will take continued buy-in for the project to thrive and change lives. 

“The camera’s off. Ty Pennington’s gone,” Hines said. “But we’re still here.”



What is Haywood Pathways Center?

Haywood Pathways Center, located at the abandoned Hazelwood prison, will house two already-existing organizations — Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter and The Open Door soup kitchen — with a new one, a halfway house called Next Step Ministries for people getting out of jail. 

Previously, the homeless shelter had operated only six months out of the year, the soup kitchen had only one campus and the halfway house was just an idea without a physical location to call home. The trio of Christian ministries seized upon the idea of leasing the abandoned Hazelwood prison, now owned by Haywood County, and using it as a joint location for all three organizations. With the support of county commissioners, local municipalities, Sheriff Greg Christopher and the community as a whole, the lease came through, and the community has rallied to transform the property. 


Give a dollar

There are four ways to help fund the mission of Haywood Pathways Center. The most immediate need is for the construction project, but each of the three groups inhabiting the campus will need separate funds to fuel their programs. 

• Construction: or Mountain Projects, 2251 Old Balsam Road, Waynesville, N.C. 28786, with “Haywood Helps” on the memo line. 

• Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter: P.O. Box 1272, Waynesville N.C. 28786 or

• Open Door Ministries: 32 Commerce St., Waynesville, N.C. 28786

• Next Step Ministries, Inc.: P.O Box 94 Waynesville, N.C. 28786

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