River of Refuge to help more homeless families

RIVER OF REFUGE TO HELP EVEN MORE HOMELESS FAMILIES THANKS TO AMERICAN IDOL FINALIST DANNY GOKEY

Local non-profit uncovered thousands of local families living in pay-by-the-week motels; annual gala to feature American Idol's Danny Gokey as well as Royals Hall-of-Famer Frank White

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – River of Refuge found a three-bedroom home for a homeless Kansas City couple and their seven children last month. They'd been paying more than $1,000 a month to live in a one-room cramped motel in a Kansas City suburb.

It's successes like this that keep the momentum for the local nonprofit. Unfortunately, River of Refuge has discovered that thousands of working families are living in motels throughout Greater Kansas City. It is the mission of River of Refuge to help these families get out of the motels, teach them to live independently and find them permanent homes they can afford.

"We understand that many of these families are hard working people who simply want the best for their children," said John Wiley, founder of River of Refuge and program administrator. "The reason they pay $800 or more in monthly rent and continue to run a household out of a one-room, run-down motel, is because they are trapped and have no other option. But they get up every day and go to work so their children can go to school and have a place to sleep at night."

River of Refuge is asking the community for financial help through the support of its annual gala which was founded last year. Titled A Night of Stars, the event is at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 19677 E. Jackson Drive, Independence, Mo. The Gala will feature a performance by Nashville recording artist and American Idol finalist Danny Gokey. Royals Hall-of-Famer, Frank White will also be a featured speaker at the event. Tickets are $50: 816-737-5100 or www.riverofrefuge.com.

"I was contacted by Danny Gokey recently because coincidently he has a similar organization, helping homeless families who live in motels, in his hometown of Nashville," Wiley said. "He's offered to help with River of Refuge's fundraiser and we're thrilled to have him perform at our event."

Sophia's Heart, started by Gokey in Nashville in 2008, helps children and families affected by poverty, sickness and other ailments by finding them a place to live and overcome other hardships in their lives. Sophia's Heart was named for Gokey's wife who died unexpectedly from a heart condition five years ago. The organization has been able to assist hundreds of homeless families find permanent homes in the Nashville area. Today, Gokey hopes to use his influence to raise awareness for this tremendous problem in Nashville, Kansas City as well as nationwide.

"It's an incredible honor to be invited to come to Kansas City and help raise awareness and the funding needed for this very worthy cause," said Gokey. "The organization I founded and River of Refuge here in Kansas City are both working to help hard working, needy families with children and that's something that will always hold a special place in my heart. No matter what city, these families need our support."

Wiley founded River of Refuge in 2006 when he noticed a group of children loading a school bus from the parking lot of an old, run-down motel near his home in Raytown, Mo. River of Refuge was conceived to specifically address thousands of working families who have become trapped in pay-by-the-week motels throughout Greater Kansas City and into the suburbs.

About River of Refuge Still in the fundraising stages, River of Refuge intends to open a facility in the former Park Lane Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., to serve as a regional lodging complex for families. When it opens at 5155 Raytown Rd., the complex will provide a direct alternative to pay-by-the-week motels as well as offer financial support and access to significant community resources needed to be successful in finding permanent housing. Until the first 11 apartments are complete at the River of Refuge (construction is scheduled to begin this year), the organization continues to place one family at a time through donations and volunteers. For more information, please visit www.riverofrefuge.com.

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