Dessert auction raises $185,000 for Vision House

The Vision of Hope Dessert Auction Oct. 4 raised $185,000 for Vision House. About $55,000 of that money was cash. The rest was pledges, to come in over the next five years.

The Vision of Hope Dessert Auction Oct. 4 raised $185,000 for Vision House. About $55,000 of that money was cash. The rest was pledges, to come in over the next five years.

The pledges were made by members of Vision Builders Alliance, a five-year giving society launched at the auction. The members receive a newsletter and are invited to special events.

Alliance members Randy and Sharon Conrads will match up to $50,000 of pledges. They have matched $44,000 so far. Randy is founder of Classmates Online, Inc., which runs the social-networking Web site

About 250 people attended the Oct. 4 event at Renton Technical College, which included hor’s d oevures and desserts and a silent and live auction. Meeghan Black of King 5 News emceed, and a former Vision House mother shared her story. Attendees also watched Vision House’s new pro

motional video.

Vision House provides transitional housing for homeless families at two Renton Highlands locations. The nonprofit also runs a recovery program for men with drug and alcohol addictions at two group homes, one in southeast Renton and the other in Burien.

“It was a very successful event,” Susan Camerer says of the auction. She is executive director of Vision House.

Camerer says the funds brought in by the auction are especially needed during these “tumultuous” financial times. Donations have decreased.

“We’ve always been incredibly blessed, but times are tight right now,” she says.

To cut costs, the nonprofit recently laid off a maintenance worker, the first lay-off in its 18-year history.

Vision House also lost a child advocate to a higher-paying job. That job was left unfilled. Other employees have taken pay cuts and extra job positions. Volunteers have helped. Staff lunches have disappeared.

Camerer says Vision House spent about $100,000 more than it made this year. She hopes to recover that money during the holiday season, when people often make more donations.

Vision House’s new three-unit building, to be completed by year’s end, is also short $100,000 to $150,000. Camerer says that amount is not too bad considering the building is a $3 million project, but it’s painful for an organization as small as Vision House.

Vision House construction is donation-based, with help from the Master Builders Association and its many contractors. The donated labor and supplies cuts the nonprofit’s construction costs in half.

But many of those contractors, including Centex Homes, which is building the new Vision House complex, are

struggling to give as generously as they have in the past.

To make up for the construction deficit, Camerer says Vision House may have to take out a mortgage on land it has earmarked for 20 new units. Or the nonprofit may have to cut staff and programs. If any programs go, they would likely be those for Vision House children, which include childcare, tutoring, crisis counseling and field trips. These programs are supplementary to Vision House’s core mission: providing housing for homeless families.

When Camerer first started looking at Vision House’s financial troubles, she wondered what the nonprofit was doing wrong. But she realized that the organization is doing nothing wrong. It is simply suffering losses similar to many organizations in this troubled economy.

“Everyone’s making these tough decisions. We’re not immune from it,” Camerer says.

Vision House

For more information about Vision House, visit or call Vision House at 425-228-6356.