Haywood Pathways, a coalition of three Christian groups looking to turn the defunct correction center into a homeless shelter, soup kitchen and halfway house had entered a nationwide online voting contest in June, going up against more than 300 organizations for the grand prize.
“It’s a very unique project. It’s very innovative and we were all very impressed by it,” said Shawn Malayter, vice president of public relations for Guaranteed Rate, the home loan company that sponsored the contest.
Nick Honerkamp, director of the homeless shelter, was in the middle of making a presentation at the Waynesville Rotary Club about that very project when he got the call from Guaranteed Rate. It was a welcome interruption.
“I was just overwhelmed to hear the good news,” he said.
Though Haywood Pathways was far-and-away the leader in the three rounds of voting, the popularity contest was only about 20 percent of the criteria — community impact and project plan accounted for the rest. According to Malayter, Haywood Pathways stood out on all three counts.
“It had a very organized plan and they won all three rounds of voting, so based on those three criteria they were definitely a great grand prize winner of the contest,” Malayter said.
So, Haywood Pathways will get some cash as well as a day of help from Ty Pennington, former host of the television series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and a group of Guaranteed Rate employees. Pennington wants to come get his hands dirty, Malayter said, but his presence is also intended to serve as a rallying point to help Haywood Pathways attract a boat-load of volunteers.
“I’m super excited to be planning a trip to North Carolina to work on this great project,” Pennington said in a press release. “It’s been an overwhelming experience to be a part of the first Ultimate Neighborhood Give Back Challenge.”
No date’s been scheduled as of yet, but Malayter said Guaranteed Rate is well aware of Haywood Pathways’ opening day goal of Nov. 1.
“We’re definitely going to try and coordinate something sooner rather than later,” Malayter said.