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Mamma's Hands shelter opens second House of Hope

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - At first glance, the new 4,400-square-foot shelter for abused and homeless women and their children located deep in the woods that opened last weekend in the Snoqualmie Valley looks like a resort.

The log home sits atop a hill that has a view of the surrounding peaks. It rests on a landscaped plot that is dotted with children's play areas on a lawn that fades into the forest.

A setting that brings a feeling of serenity is exactly what Denny Hancock wants since he is the first person many people see who are on their last leg. For the past 14 years, Hancock has run Mamma's Hands, a combination of two programs called Phone Home and House of Hope. Hancock first created the Phone Home program as a way for the homeless to call relatives in an effort to reconnect them with a helpful and loving soul. When Hancock found out about the plight of abused women and their families, he decided he had to do more.

In 1995, Hancock opened a shelter called the House of Hope in the woods outside North Bend that allowed women and their families to get away from abusive situations and reclaim their lives, step by step. While staying at the shelter, women can receive counseling, job training and, most important, an encouraging word after sometimes years of discouragement.

Hancock said he has always been blessed with success at the House of Hope, but the success has pushed the facility to its limits.

Being one of the few shelters in the area and the only shelter in the Snoqualmie Valley, the House of Hope is often full and is always getting calls. The House of Hope's director, Kim Jackson, estimated that she gets 150-200 calls a month from agencies all around the Puget Sound area. The present facility has room and services for only 20-25 women and family members a year.

"The need is incredible," she said.

Three Christmas seasons ago, a longtime friend of Hancock asked him what he needed for his shelter. Hancock said a new furnace, but his friend told him to think bigger. Hancock then suggested a new washer and dryer. Instead, the friend offered $100,000 toward buying the adjacent 5-acre property in order to build another shelter.

"I wasn't thinking big enough," Hancock said.

From then on Hancock found himself at the receiving end of a staggering amount of generosity, totaling into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. As more people found out about the House of Hope's mission, more money was raised and more labor and materials were donated. Hancock's father-in-law, Herb Brittman, designed the shelter and as Mamma's Hands garnered more support, House of Hope II started to take shape.

Although Hancock has had to pay for some of the labor and materials, he estimated that the shelter was built at a cost of $8 per square foot, about half the price of a well-built home in the private market.

"I feel really blessed to be able to do this and to be in this neighborhood," Hancock said.

The result is a resort-like structure that, unlike shelters that are transformed from private residences, was built especially for the House of Hope. There is no main bedroom, but rather several located throughout the house that will have space for many beds. In the bathrooms, showers and toilets have their own doors so one can use the toilet in privacy even if someone else is taking a shower. A huge laundry room with four machines has a view of a play area where mothers can look over playing children.

Since the house is large, it needed to have its own fire-sprinkler system, which required the shelter to have two, huge pressurized tanks in the basement.

"This [fire-sprinkler room] is the most expensive room in the house," Hancock said. "I could have built a small home with all the money that went into this room."

The highlight of the shelter is a gigantic living room and kitchen that dominate the main floor. Hancock said the large area will let families interact more with each other, a big part of the communal philosophy that purveys every part of Mamma's Hands. Even those who have worked on the house believe everyone involved was motivated to do their best because of the communal purpose of the house they were building.

"There is a sense of divinity to it," said Jason Lofquist, an interior residential stone contractor with Stone Age Rockworks who worked on House of Hope II.

The new shelter will increase the number of people Mamma's Hands can help and there will be even more growth. Once the new shelter starts taking in people, the old shelter will be closed for a renovation that will increase its capacity.

Hancock said the new shelter will serve a lot of needs for his organization, but not all of them, and Mamma's Hands is always looking for money and supplies to make ends meet.

"We are like any other large family, and we have the needs of any other large family," Hancock said.

With a brand new house, though, there is an initial feeling that everything is going to be OK; a feeling the staff of Mamma's Hands wants to encourage. That feeling also gives credence to the first thing any visitor to the house sees when they enter through the front door, which is a foyer with one word etched into the tile floor that sums up the organization's whole mission: Hope.

* For information about Mamma's Hands and the House of Hope, call (425) 888-2241.

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