We’ve talked in this space about rappelling from parking garages. In particular, we’ve talked about rappelling from the Walnut Street Garage (the new one). This is close. Canadian company with a US division Over the Edge, in conjunction with Restoration House, is bringing a one-day event to the Langley Building itself – which at twelve stories is three stories higher than the garage.
I met with Daniel Watson of Restoration House who said they were approached by the company to measure their interest. That began a process of locating a building high enough and suitable in other ways for Over the Edge Knox. Mr. Watson said that, while the garage was discussed at first, the building was preferable because of the additional height and the interest of rappelling on a glass wall with reflections and sometimes with fans on the inside cheering on the participants.
The event will happen August 29th and the hope is to have 100 people take the (slow) plunge. At 170 feet, the average person will need about five minutes to complete the trip, which should allow for about 100 people to take the trip that day. That estimate assumes two lines running all day (8:00 AM to 5:00 PM). If response is much larger, a third line could be added. Each participant will need to raise a minimum of $1,000 in pledges to Restoration House. Daniel said they hope the event is successful and that it will be repeated in the future, using other buildings.
For the event, Summer Place, the street between the building and the garage will be taken over by a street party with music, a climbing wall for children, food trucks and other activities. A skateboarding exhibition is possible, and the top of the garage is a likely spot for a VIP viewing experience.
A “chicken coop,” will be provided for those of us who would not consider voluntarily dropping over the side of a twelve story building. To participate in the chicken coop, individuals gather pledges to Restoration House in exchange for prizes, just as the people who rappel, but without the ropes and harnesses. Also included is a “toss your boss” option in which employees raise money to send their boss over the edge. Be careful, though, the boss has the option of matching the funds to send a person of his choice over the edge, so it could come back to bite you.
The event will be insured by Over the Edge and will conform to OSHA and SPRAT regulations, and will be a fundraiser for Restoration House, the project founded by Daniel and his wife nine years ago. In order to participate in the rappelling, participants must raise a $1,000 minimum pledge toward Restoration House, with the money going toward completion of a building project on their site.
Daniel, a minister, and his wife, a former teacher, both come from single-mother families. So they took their personal interest in families like their own and founded Restoration House in 2007 with the purpose of helping low-income single mothers lift themselves and their families out of difficult circumstances and into a better life.
They opened after two years of research. First, they surveyed agencies in Knox County who were already providing help for single mothers to see what was actually needed. They found two gaps: Housing was temporarily available to the families, but not long-term enough to give them time to make a transition in their lives. Additionally, daily emotional support as they make the journey was not available to the extent needed. Research nationally into programs that worked well revealed that two years of supportive housing while other efforts were underway predicted a high success rate. Restoration House offers that and a support team of encouraging volunteers for each family.
The couple purchased a home and a duplex off Robinson Road and began Restoration House. You may remember the home as it turned out it had such serious problems it could not be saved and it and the duplex were subsequently demolished and re-built and featured on the television show Extreme Makeover. I’ve included the video about the program below.
Families are carefully screened in order to give the few slots to those with the greatest likelihood of success. The requirements include a single-mother family, low-income with a GED or diploma, not currently in crisis and having a real commitment to improve their situation. This last variable is vetted through what is typically a month-and-a-half process.
You might think of it as a step between emergency assistance like KARM, and a longer term stability like receiving a Habitat for Humanity House. Currently the non-profit can take five families at a time and they are running about twenty-one applications a month. Hence the need for additional space and an expanded program. With the money raised from this project they plan to build a phase-two on six adjoining acres they subsequently purchased. This will allow them to work with twenty-four families at once and will provide space for Emerald Youth who will provide children’s programming/youth development and for A Hand Up for Women which will coordinate life management/supportive services.
The program has been very successful and this move reflects their desire to expand that success. An average stay for the approximately thirty families they have served so far is about a year-and-a-half and follow-up shows an overall success rate of about 75%. Specifically, when they arrived, 90% of the women were not working and follow-up indicates 100% are now employed. 88% are government-assistance free and upon arrival 100% received government assistance. It works.
So, do want to rappel down a building and/or like what they are doing? Then get involved. You can register on the site and get started right away with your fund-raising. I’m not a heights kind of guy, but I’ll happily be there to cheer you on. It should be a fun and very cool day in the city.
As a final aside, I spoke with Michele Thomas who works with the Walnut Street Garage and she says they were excited to host the event and think it’s a fun thing for downtown. She tells me conversations are continuing regarding the south wall of the garage, though they’ve not been able to find an interested party in placing a climbing wall there (and yes, they have checked with the Chattanooga company). They are open to ideas and will be reading the comments here to see if there are any they might pursue.