Hancock County's home for abused and neglected children could soon be forced to close its doors because of a decline in donations.
Since opening its doors seven years ago, Hope Haven has been a "safe haven" for more than 1,500 abused or neglected children.
"We've had great community support, but starting in February, about the same time the war started, we noticed that our mail stopped. Along with the mail, our support stopped. It's like someone shut the door," Hope Haven Director Terry Latham said.
It costs about $25,000 a month to run the shelter. Latham says in February Hope Haven was more than $5,000 short of that. March was even worse, falling $10,000 short. April saw another shortfall of $6,000.
"It adds up to almost $22,000 we're behind in donations," Latham said.
While donations are decreasing, operating expenses are increasing. Latham says cutting staff to save money would jeopardized the shelters state license.
"We need the individual people along the Gulf Coast to go ahead and maintain their interest in keeping this shelter open. It's the $25 and $50 checks that just stopped. Our motto has always been: We don't need a lot from any one person. We just need a little from a lot of people."
Ironically, in February, Hope Haven was named the best run small non-profit agency in the State by the Mississippi Business Journal. Latham says that may have done more harm than good.
"We tend to think that people go, 'Oh, well they're doing terrific. They don't need our help anymore."
Latham says 45-percent of the shelter's operating budget comes from personal donations, and without them, the shelter can't exist.
The shelter is holding several fundraisers to bring in more money. This Saturday there will be a "Kids for Kids Walk-A-Thon" at 10am. It starts at the Washington Street Pier in Bay St. Louis.
The shelter is also launching a "Pennies From Heaven" campaign encouraging individuals and businesses to put out jars to collect loose change.
If you can make a donation contact the shelter's office at 467-7945, or click here to visit their web site.