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One of Lancaster County’s longest-serving and most respected charities, HOPE (Helping Other People Effectively) in Lancaster, is moving forward with renewed vigor under the guidance of a new executive director.
Bekah Clawson comes to the position from Louisville, Ky., where she served four and a half years at various charitable organizations, including many with the same mission as HOPE.
The HOPE board of directors named Clawson to lead the organization in early June, but only recently made the public announcement.
Clawson, who began her decade of charitable work at churches in North Carolina and Virginia, said she believed she and HOPE were a perfect match.
“HOPE is faith-based and I am deeply rooted in faith, so I knew God was leading me to HOPE,” Clawson said.
“I am so pleased to be a part – even a small part – of what HOPE stands for and has done effectively for the community all these years.”
HOPE was founded in 1983 by a group of 30 local churches to help families and individuals facing financial emergencies with food and utilities.
Clawson’s hire signals a new start for the charity that experienced its own emergency in April 2012 when the organization discovered a former bookkeeper had forged and cashed more than $60,000 in fake checks.
The charity experienced another crisis in late October 2013 with the unexpected and sudden departure of founding executive director Elaine Adkins.
Neither board members or Adkins have ever said why she left.
HOPE Board Chairwoman Genny Hendrix said Clawson’s sincerity and enthusiasm for HOPE’s mission stood out to her and other board members.
Referring to a new slogan adopted by the nonprofit’s board and staff – “It’s a New Day at HOPE” – Hendrix said the board made a good choice in hiring Clawson and is confident she will help the charity move forward.
“She comes in, to her good and bad, with no history with HOPE; she is here to promote the mission, move it forward and try to bring in more involvement with the churches,” Hendrix said.
“All these things, it has been a hard couple of years,” she said. “So in our minds, we’re trying to be totally positive in moving forward. It’s a new day at HOPE.”
Clawson said she believes her experience in both secular and faith-based nonprofits, which includes founding a food pantry, as well as development and fundraising and nonprofit management, has prepared her well for her new position.
She said HOPE has recently cleared an extensive audit and she and the board are currently working to update the organization’s policies and procedures.
In an effort to reestablish important community relationships, Clawson has been holding speaking engagements at local churches, businesses and fellow nonprofit organizations.
The goal, she said, is to rebuild partnerships to strengthen the charitable work of HOPE and the other organizations involved.
She said she also has some new ideas she’s already putting in place, such as stocking food for diabetics, providing clients with educational materials and helping clients buy fresh vegetables through a grant from Bi-Lo Charities.
Clawson said the ideal success for HOPE would be for it to “work itself out of a job.” But she’s realistic enough to know there will always be a need for the faith-based organization since unforeseen emergencies will always happen to even the most hard working individuals and their families.
The key to HOPE’s success, Clawson said, is for the organization to stay focused on its mission, use its resources wisely and be proactive in meeting clients’ needs.
“We want to be effective, efficient and energetic in how we come up with ways to help people in short term emergency crisis,” Crawford said.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151