Taste of Hope Designed to Expand Audience
By CARTER VANDERHOOF / Brattleboro Reformer Staff
October 10, 2011 | KEENE, N.H.- After 20 years of hosting an annual golf tournament fundraiser, Kurn Hattin Homes instead held a wine tasting event at the Keene Country Club last Thursday for this year’s fundraiser.
Diane Bazin, a member of the Kurn Hattin Board of Trustees, said there had been a golf tournament to raise money and they looked at the wine tasting as an opportunity to try a new event. She said the fundraiser was their biggest event of the year and, in an ideal world, the new Taste of Hope event would raise about $15,000, which the golf tournament usually came close to.
Chris Barry, executive director at Kurn Hattin Homes in Westminster, said the golf tournament fundraiser they had been doing in previous years only catered to certain individuals.
“We wanted to expand the audience and try something new,” Barry said.
Barry started at Kurn Hattin Homes in 1973 as a 7th and 8th grade teacher of language arts and math. He taught for 12 years and has been director for 16. He said it is very fulfilling and he couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
Kurn Hattin has children from grades one through eight. After graduation, they move on to a public or private high school.
The children come from low-income families, said Stephen Durand of Stephen and Durand Toyota Ford, who has been a supporter of the Kurn Hattin Golf Classic fundraiser and most recently the A Taste of Hope wine tasting event.
Connie Sanderson, head of fundraising and public relations at Kurn Hattin Homes, said the school offers a home environment for the students. There is a houseparent, a volunteer that lives with the child for a full year. The experience gives the child a chance to bond with the houseparent and to learn basic life skills while attending school.
Kim Fine, senior development officer at Kurn Hattin Homes, said there is a rigorous application process for the houseparents.
She said some of the children at Kurn Hattin Homes come from families that are struggling. Others come from single-parent homes who for one reason or another are having trouble raising their child. She said there are also kids that come from abusive families or a great family, just in a bad situation.
“Our goal is to help families mend,” said Fine.
Sanderson said there used to be two separate schools, one for girls and another for boys. In 1994 they decided to combine them into one school. She said brothers and sisters were separated from each other and found that if they were all on the same campus, it was more helpful. She said it was one of the best things Kurn Hattin Homes has ever done.
Janet Wilson, a volunteer, said she has been working with the school for nearly 14 years.
She related a story of living with the biggest kid in the school for a year. Wilson said at first the boy was a typical lost soul, with no guidance. She said the child had no idea what he could or could not do — he didn’t even learn how to cross the street until Kurn Hattin Homes took him to Brattleboro to teach him. Wilson said little by little, he blossomed, graduating at age 15.
Wilson said unfortunately many of the kids drop out of high school, or they go for two years and drop out when they turn 16. However, she said she received a letter from the child she stayed with telling her he was playing football and graduating from high school.
Wilson said she is there from three to four days a week while other volunteers come for one day.
“I call myself unpaid staff,” she said.
Along with educating the children, Kurn Hattin Homes is also teaching them how to farm.
Fine said they have a greenhouse, an apple orchard, and an apple house. She said they also have a good music program.
“Most of the children can play up to three instruments when they leave Kurn Hattin,” Fine said.
She said they have a special celebration with the donors in which the kids put on a presentation that is different each year.
Sanderson said they are a fully charitable organization and do not depend on state or federal funding.
Kurn Hattin Homes is 117 years old, established in 1894.
To help pay for the program, an endowment was put in place to raise money through donations from corporations, foundations, and private individuals. Sanderson said sometimes a person will leave money for them in their will. She said the fundraisers are how they are able to support the program.
Barry said 30 to 40 percent of the revenue comes from the endowment, about $42 million, but doesn’t come close to paying the bills.
Fine said they raise money throughout the year, talking to potential supporters to get them to invest in Kurn Hattin Homes’ mission.
She said they have had various sources supporting them over the course of 100 years. Fine said the endowment pays for medical needs, clothing, food, and education. She said they have to raise a few million dollars a year, which she says, so far they have been successful in doing.
Durand, a member of the Board of Trustees, said he once read a book about Kurn Hattin Homes and ever since has been a big supporter. He said without the help of Kurn Hattin, the children wouldn’t have much of a chance to succeed in anything.
Another way that money was raised at the wine tasting was people out golfing at the country club and taking part in a bidding war. Fine said they had stipulations, so if they were to miss a putt, they would owe an amount such as $500 to be donated.
They also had silent auction items, and a 50/50 raffle in which the organization received half of the money raised and the person who’s name was drawn got the other half.
Fine said Kurn Hattin Homes invited major wine and beer companies and had to apply for a liquor license for the companies to serve at the tasting. Since they had to get the liquor license in New Hampshire, all of the companies providing samples of alcohol were from the Granite State.
One of the tables set up at the wine tasting fundraiser was run by Alan Crofut, with Unbridled Chocolates in Marlborough said he received a call from the school asking his company to attend. Crofut said he did not know what Kurn Hattin was but once they explained what their mission was, he said OK. Crofut said he could have been a child at Kurn Hattin as he was a runaway kid and was a professional hitchhiker.
“So anytime I can invest in youth, I do,” said Crofut.
Durand said many kids return to give back to Kurn Hattin Homes. He said the president of the board was a graduate of the school.
“We’re the only home they’ve ever had,” said Fine.
Carter Vanderhoof can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311 ext. 277.
Kurn Hattin is a charitable, year-round, residential home and school located in Westminster, Vermont serving in-need and at-risk children, ages 6-15, from throughout the Northeast.