When Krystal Dumas started Just HOPE Inc. 11 years ago, she never imagined that using her couponing skills to feed hungry mouths with her pantry stockpile and her old delivery car would evolve into transitioning over 800 families into their own homes after experiencing homelessness.
The ministry moved from her house to a large room at Advance United Methodist Church, to the back room at A Storehouse for Jesus, to the basement of the old Napa building, to a 4,000 square foot building on Wilkesboro Street, to its new 9,000 square foot home at 814 South Main Street in the building formerly occupied by Upscale Consignment and Mocksville Building Supply — in under 6 years.
“I’ve been told so many times that my dreams are too big…but apparently God doesn’t think so because the blessings keep coming and each time they are bigger and better than the one before.”
Those dreams are driven by a deep understanding of the needs of the homeless – those who live in hotels, camps, cars, or on the couches of family and friends – because she was once one of them.
At 23, the mental and emotional effects of a series of traumas caused her to lose her job, her home, and her sense of direction. She was going to school, working, and sleeping in her car behind a restaurant in Lexington. A regular at the restaurant noticed, and rather than judging, offered her a hand up.
Although she was a complete stranger, he hired her to clean his house and offered her his basement until she got back on her feet. Knowing she could never pay him back, Krystal, decided to devote her life to paying his kindness forward. “I think he felt like he needed to help me, and he did. I lived with him for a little while and was able to save up some money. I started therapy, got a better job, finished school, and got a place of my own, but if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I decided I wanted to be that person that I had needed for others.”
Her own first-hand experience sets Just HOPE apart. “Being relevant and relatable is the biggest blessing you can give to someone else. Having someone have the courage to share their story and feeling like someone is actually listening is the best therapy. I think that is the biggest thing people get from here. It doesn’t feel like an agency. We are very relatable, and truly understand when not a lot of people do.”
Just HOPE (JHI) now has three full-time and two part-time employees, as well as a team of dedicated volunteers, who are devoted to serving the displaced, homeless, and those without reliable transportation. Krystal shared a description of the life-changing services the agency offers.
While helping families transition to their own homes, JHI assists with hygiene items, job search, budget building, agency referrals, case management, substance abuse referrals, and counseling.
Until they locate permanent housing, JHI acts as their mail center, a place to use the phone and receive important messages, a place to do laundry, and an escape from the harsh weather conditions during the day.
In addition, JHI coordinates with First Presbyterian, First United Methodist’s WHEN ministry, and Fresh Hope (formerly California Fresh catering), a non-profit food delivery service, to provide hot meals to the residents of The Lakewood Motel, Scottish Inn, and local campsites two to three times a week.
Krystal beams as she looks around the building and talks about her plans for the new space. She already has ideas that will fill every square inch. She also expressed her gratitude for Neal Cheek and Will Marklin who saw the value that JHI brings to the community and were willing to work with her on a price and allowed her a lease-to-own option on the building. “I am still in shock that we are actually here.”
The first floor is a larger thrift store which is a primary service of the agency and serves a dual purpose: income for the agency and a means to supply the needs of JHI’s clients and others in the community. JHI also provides vouchers through its partnerships with Family Promise, Davie County Social Services, The Advocacy Center, Salvation Army, and Davie County Schools.
“Some of our clients have lost everything they own and are starting completely over so the items from our thrift store are a great help. We probably give out 50-75 vouchers a week, and that is for every member of the family. They get any household items that they need and get to pick out three outfits, a pair of shoes, and any seasonal clothing items they need like a coat or bathing suit, three to four times a year depending on their need.” She estimates that 65% of the donations received are given free of charge through the voucher program.
Although she admits it could take 6 – 8 months to complete, Krystal Dumas radiates excitement as she shares her vision for the downstairs space.
The Interactive Resource Center family room, computer area, and laundry facility will be located in the basement. The computers and internet access have been particularly valuable during COVID as many clients who lost their jobs search for new ones or check on their unemployment and students are able to complete the virtual learning. As important as computer access has become, Krystal would love to be able to replace JHI’s ancient laptops with something more efficient and reliable.
Teaching life skills and employment skills are an integral part of the outreach. Krystal is working to get licensed to offer employable skills on a fast track, starting with a CNA program. She knows personally the lifeline that the program can provide.
“Our clients, particularly our Women LEAD participants have an immediate need for marketable skills. Six weeks versus six months can make a huge difference in someone’s life especially when they need a job yesterday. We don’t have any fast-track programs in Davie County so I am excited about the possibility of offering that service.”
Setting up the program will cost a few thousand dollars but she believes that area medical facilities will be willing to help since it will increase their pool of qualified applicants.This building means more than just growth to us. It means we can help more people, change more lives, create more impact, and inspire others to do the very same.~ Krystal Dumas, Director of Just Hope Click To Tweet
She also hopes to set up lab simulators so that CNAs have a place to practice their skills since there is currently no place in Davie or the surrounding area that offers that. “The lab portion of my CNA program was the most frustrating because I had limited access to a place to practice. You can practice on a human, but you test on a dummy which is totally different. I want people to have the opportunity to be fully prepared and confident when they go take their certification test. At $101 a try, it is important that they be able to pass the first time.”
The basement also provides office space for key personnel and storage space for seasonal items as well as the gifts donated through JHI’s Angel Tree Christmas sponsorship program. In the past, JHI had to turn down donations around the holidays because the sponsorship gifts took up the limited storage space. Krystal is thankful that will no longer be necessary.
Despite her many responsibilities as Just HOPE’s executive director, Krystal remains true to her original mission and still makes regular rounds to local hotels and campsites, taking food and personal hygiene items to families in need.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 16th, she shared a heartfelt message that captured the essence of why the agency has been such a success – compassion, commitment, and heart.
“As a founder, a leader, a mother, a friend, and a human that understands what it feels like to need help and not know how to get it. Our clients often teach us more than we could ever teach them. They prove time and again that the best life lessons and motivation come from those who have overcome obstacles and refused to give up. If you don’t know what it feels like to be hungry, or homeless, or have no support system while struggling…consider yourself extremely blessed, and then consider spending a little time with us here at Just HOPE. I promise it will not only humble you real quick, but it will change your life for the better. This building means more than just growth to us. It means we can help more people, change more lives, create more impact, and inspire others to do the very same.”
The Just Hope Thrift Shop is open for donations and shopping from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For updates about JHI programs visit them on Facebook. Krystal can be reached at 336-936-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org