Compassion House helping families in need

December 1, 2009

By David Hayes

Compassion House and the Master Builders Care Foundation will break ground on a transitional housing complex Dec. 9.

The duplex will be built on vacant land at 260 S.E. Andrews St. next to another Compassion House transitional housing unit. Foundation leaders will break ground on the latest HomeAid project 10 a.m. Dec. 9.

HomeAid creates partnerships to construct or renovate facilities to provide housing and assistance for the temporarily homeless. In Issaquah, the partnership includes the homebuilding industry, HomeAid builder captain John Day Homes and nonprofit Compassion House.

In addition to providing transitional housing, Compassion House volunteers offer life coaching and other services to help former transitional housing residents sustain themselves. Volunteers help former homeless people with finances, transportation and other social services.

John Day Homes, of North Bend, will lead construction. When the Compassion House duplex is completed next year, the facility will provide transitional housing and support for two families.

John Day is the 2009 president of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, the largest homebuilding association in the country. Day volunteered the services of his company to facilitate construction.

“I’m so proud of the homebuilding industry and members of the Master Builders Association,” Care Foundation President Tracy Cromwell said in a news release.

The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Master Builders Association.

“Despite current uncertain economic times, John Day and our members will step up with in-kind donations to complete this duplex,” Cromwell said. “I feel this project is special, because John Day is one of the founders of Master Builders Care Foundation and its HomeAid program.”

Compassion House President Tom Bilbro noted how the partnership between the nonprofit and the Master Builders Association had proved successful in the past.

“We worked with the master builders to remodel the Monti House a few years ago,” Bilbro said. “When this duplex is complete we’ll be able to house more homeless. We’re seeing an increasing need, and we’re fortunate to have the support of John Day Homes, Master Builders Association, a variety of cash donors and the city of Issaquah.”

Compassion House operates an efficiency apartment and the Monti House. The historic Monti House — built in 1900 — was moved to its Southeast Andrews Street lot in December 2004. The building had fallen into disrepair and city officials considered razing the structure. But Compassion House instead paid to have the house moved and renovated.

Compassion House founder, the Rev. Mark Miller, started the organization in 1998 after he saw local families struggling.

Donate to raffle before Dec. 6 drawing

This is your last week to help the Lake Sammamish Elks Lodge No. 1843 raise $100,000 for Compassion House.

And you could win a new car or $40,000 cash in the process.

The fraternal organization is sponsoring a raffle for a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 limited-edition muscle car. The benefits from the raffle go to Compassion House to help its effort to build a duplex on a lot donated to it on Southeast Andrews Street in Issaquah.

Mayor Ava Frisinger has accepted the invitation to draw the winning ticket at the XXX Rootbeer Drive-in at about 4 p.m. Dec. 6. Representatives from the Elks Lodge and Compassion House will be at the drawing as well. After the Elks validates the winning ticket, the winner will be announced.

The winner can choose either the car or $40,000 cash.

Compassion House is a nonprofit organization that offers temporary housing for families or individuals essentially down on their luck.

“The typical resident stays for one to two years,” said founder and board member Mark Miller. “So, we’re more transitional housing than low-income housing.”

Started in 1998 by Mountain Creek Christian Church, Compassion House split off into its own nonprofit a few years later. Through the help of the Master Builders of King and Snohomish counties, the Monti House, acquired from the city of Issaquah, was renovated and moved to its location on Southeast Andrew Street in 2007.

Compassion House organizers have been developing plans to build a second facility, a duplex, on an adjacent lot. Miller said the Master Builders have stepped in again and offered to construct the new home. Compassion House’s contribution would be just $100,000.

To help reach that goal, Michael Steele, a 10-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a just-retired pilot for Northwest Airlines, stepped in with an idea.

“As an old-time car enthusiast, I’d heard of other organizations that raffled cars,” he said.

He pitched his idea to the board of directors to purchase a car for a raffle.

“And they said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Steele said.

As a “car collector wannabe,” Steele’s research led him to the 2008 Dodge Challenger. Only 6,400 models of this limited edition were produced. Steele’s is No. 4243.

“It’s got a retro design for the new muscle car collector,” he said. “It’s a beautiful car.”

However, the economic downturn has made fundraising with the raffle slow and raffle managers said buying a ticket is now one of the best bets in the state. Steele has shuttled the car and display booth to city fairs, auto race tracks, regional fairs and auto rallies all summer, with continuing hope of a meaningful profit to complement the donations of others, especially the pledge of the local Master Builders Association, to get the duplex building under way.

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