M.A.T.S. raises money at Luau

M.A.T.S. Executive Director Gary Brewster reviews silent auction results with board members Erin Dean and Eliana Leal during the shelter’s Luau fundraiser held Saturday in Dandridge.

The balmy weather on Saturday evening produced calm breezes and appealing views of Douglas Lake for those who attended the 2019 M.A.T.S. Silent Auction Luau held at Angelos At The Point in Dandridge.

Proceeds from the summer fundraiser will benefit the programs at M.A.T.S. that are designed to build self-sufficiency in its residents, along with providing food and other supplies to residents, and supporting salaries for case managers.

Ticket holders were offered a buffet of luau-themed food and were entertained by a live D.J. The silent auction remained open for the entire fundraiser, providing ample time for competitive bidding.

Items offered in the auction ranged from vacation opportunities to themed jewelry and home décor items, along with a wide collection of signed and framed sports and celebrity prints, including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.

The fundraiser was brought back for 2019, after a five-year hiatus.

“We’re hoping to make this bigger and better every year,” M.A.T.S. Fundraising Coordinator Lindsey Sorah said. “It’s so beautiful out here; it’s the perfect location for a luau.”

The average number of residents at the shelter include eight to 10 adults and two to three children. Programming for adults includes training in budgeting and job readiness.

“The goal is to move out and live on their own,” Sorah said.

Adult residents at the shelter move through a series of three budgets during their stay.

The initial budget reflects estimated expenses for their stay, including any court fees or child support. The second budget is established after residents find local employment and reflects their take-home pay and expenses. The third budget reflects expenses associated with moving out and finding affordable housing. Residents are expected to save 80 percent of their take-home pay during their stay at the shelters, to prepare to move out on their own.

Residents find employment with the help of agencies like Express Employment Professionals and manufacturers including Koch Foods.

“Express Employment is a huge help to us,” Sorah said.

The average length of stay for individuals is two to three months, while families stay longer, due to the fact they have more expenses.

The shelter houses on average 18 residents per year who are children, and makes a concerted effort to provide an environment where they can thrive.

The playground on the shelter’s property was built in 2018 as an Eagle Scout Service Project by Christian Henderson, a member of Troop 91.

“You want the kids to feel comfortable – with a bed of their own and a stable environment — and the playground has really helped with that,” Sorah said. “The kids have really enjoyed getting outside and having an area just for them.”

One young resident in particular, Sorah said, touched her with his genuine happiness to be at M.A.T.S.

“He was around two or three years old, and he had never really lived in a typical family environment,” she said. “He was so excited to be at a home. He was just so happy to be there.”

“Kids do so much better in a stable environment. At first they may be a little unsure or scared, but after a couple of days, they get so comfortable,” Sorah said.

The stability includes going to bed at the same time every evening, getting up at the same time every morning and participating in meals on a regular schedule.

“Even living with people who at first are strangers to them, the kids are comfortable,” Sorah said.

To raise more proceeds for its programs, M.A.T.S. will host its Fifth Annual Victory Concert fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 24, featuring Christian music singer and musician Jason Crabb. The concert will be held at Manley Baptist Church in Morristown. Tickets are available at www.matstn.com.