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Our House ready to Tie One On

Our House ready to Tie One On

By Linda Haymes
Photo by JOHN SYKES JR.

Volunteers for Our House, the shelter for working homeless since 1987, really tie one on at the holiday party.

Aprons, that is.

Co-chairmen for the ninth such party are Eliza and Alec Gaines, and “the theme for this year’s event is ‘Be the Light,'” she says.

In addition to providing basic needs such as meals and housing for its 110 residents each night, the homeless shelter also offers child care, education, job training and life skills to the working homeless in central Arkansas — so Our House is shelter by night, direction by day.

Little has changed from the eighth event because, well, don’t mess with success. Nearly 75 silent auction items will be out for review. There’ll be a signature cocktail and other drinks provided by Glazers and a buffet of canapes provided by Ben E. Keith and prepared by Catering to You. Employees of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings will serve as bartenders for the event with the law firm matching the tips — up to $1,000 — that those volunteers receive and donate to Our House.

The event, expected to draw between 400 and 500, will feature KTHV, Channel 11, anchor Dawn Scott as master of ceremonies and local auctioneer Gaylen McGee.

That’s where things have ramped up — the live auction.

“The live auction items will be the bigger-ticket items, like a weekend trip to New York,” Alec says. The trip includes round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines, a pair of tickets to a Broadway show, a two-night stay in one of New York’s oldest private clubs, and a private tour of the World Trade Center Freedom Tower.

Another auction item offers a week-long stay in Carmel, Calif., at a Carmel Valley Ranch condo with two round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines and a round of golf.

There’s a trout fishing weekend, a week in Aspen, Colo., a weekend at a Buffalo River cabin, a week-long stay at a five-bedroom house in Costa Rica, and a behind-the-scenes tour of KATV, Channel 7’s Daybreak morning show.

The auction items are paired with corresponding aprons adorned by local artists (includingArkansas Democrat-Gazette chief editorial cartoonist John Deering) who donate their time and talents.

This year, the apron, which symbolizes the 100,000 meals served annually by the shelter and its Children’s Center, will be joined by baby bibs, children’s aprons, and men’s ties. Some are meant to be used; others are mostly designed for display.

“The ties represent getting back on your feet,” Alec says.

“And the baby bibs symbolize the 150 children served daily by the Children’s Center team at Our House,” Eliza adds.

“As a homeless shelter, it’s unique in the fact that it offers child care in addition to housing,” she says. “And those who stay there must acquire a job within 16 days of arriving,” she says, adding that Our House has a network of those in the business community who help the residents find employment. As long as residents are working, they can remain at the shelter for up to two years.

“It’s a shelter for the working homeless,” Alec explains. “And once they’ve gotten on their feet a little better, then they have the option of renting some space here and that helps to teach responsibility.” Residents work a minimum of 32 hours a week and save 75 percent of every paycheck.

The shelter is also very family-oriented, Alec says. “I believe this is the only shelter in Arkansas that allows single dads to stay with their kids.”

The Gaineses have been involved in Our House since moving to Little Rock three years ago, but they’ve never spearheaded Tie One On. “We’ve always been involved with the spring event, ‘Dinner on the Grounds,'” says Eliza, who co-chaired the communications committee the past three years with Alec.

“We love this organization,” says Eliza, whose father, Walter E. Hussman, Jr., introduced the couple to the shelter’s director Georgia Mjartan in 2012.

Why?

“I think it’s the people,” Alec says. “They really care about what they’re doing.”

“And it’s giving people a hand up — a way to better themselves and their lives — rather than just a handout,” Eliza says.

Funds raised will assist in the overall operations of the shelter, which each winter stretches its occupancy to the limits. Last year’s Tie One On fundraiser raised more than $143,000 for the shelter. This year’s goal is substantially more — $164,575.

“What’s really wonderful is that 96 percent of every donation goes straight to the operation of the shelter,” Alec says.

The couple attend Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and volunteer in other areas of the community. Eliza, 28, vice president of audience development for WEHCO Media, volunteers with the Junior League of Little Rock. Alec, 31, a lawyer with Williams and Anderson, PLC, serves on the board of the Arkansas Arts Center’s Contemporaries group.

The couple moved to Little Rock in 2012 after a sojourn in North Carolina. Eleven months ago, they welcomed a son, Holden.

Tie One On is from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 3, at Pavilion in the Park. Tickets are $55. To buy tickets, visit ourhouseshelter.org or call (501) 374-7383, Extension 200.

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