An artist’s chance encounter with a homeless man years ago in Greensboro seemingly has no relationship to Surry County, but will help the Shepherd’s House in Mount Airy in the coming months.
That encounter by watercolor artist William Mangum led to the formation of The Honor Card program, which through his artwork benefits 14 homeless agencies across North Carolina, including the Shepherd’s House as of 2013.
Now in its 25th year, the Honor Card effort involves a contemplative painting by Mangum being used annually as the design for a Christmas card that is sold to help the homeless agencies that are part of the program.
With help from Wells Fargo, Piedmont Graphics and others, Mangum can cover production costs, ensuring that 100 percent of the proceeds of every card go directly to the agencies to assist the homeless in each community.
This year’s Honor Card — titled “Fall Into Me” — will be available at the Shepherd’s House on Rockford Street after Nov. 22 and from the artist’s store in Greensboro next month.
The Shepherd’s House also will be looking for business partners to sell the cards in local shops, but those locations have not been finalized.
“We are excited to be part of this incredible project by one of the premier artists in North Carolina,” said the Rev. Phil Goble Jr., executive director of the Shepherd’s House. He added that the local shelter is grateful to become part of a growing program that should benefit the facility for years to come.
In Mount Airy, the cards will feature the specially designed art work by Mangum on the cover, and information about the Shepherd’s House including its 2013-only 10th-anniversary logo. The cost is $5 per card and every dollar will go to the shelter.
Buyers get the cards with envelopes and can personalize them, allowing the recipients to know that a donation has been made in their honor to the Shepherd’s House. The buyers then mail the cards to their intended recipients.
Goble said the campaign is tailor-made for those who might not be on someone’s gift list at Christmas, but deserving of a special acknowledgement for the holiday. “It’s just a way to give more than a Christmas card,” he explained.
The recipient gets a unique card and the homeless are assisted. “So it’s a win-win,” Goble said.
Since its conception in 1988, more than 500,000 Honor Cards have been gifted. Over the years, many businesses have instituted the Honor Card as their official holiday card for clients, associates and employees.
The 2013 Honor Card won’t be available locally until November to honor a blackout period for fundraising efforts in the county among United Fund of Surry agencies, including the Shepherd’s House.
William Mangum’s introduction to the plight of homelessness came through an appeal from a hungry man one morning in a Greensboro fast-food restaurant. Mangum bought the man breakfast and took him to Greensboro Urban Ministry for shelter, clothes and food — ultimately becoming his caretaker for three years.
That meeting inspired the artist to develop The Honor Card effort to help others in similar circumstances, through the painting of an inspiring Christmas card scene annually.
In addition to Greensboro and Mount Airy, it has spread to homeless agencies in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Wilmington, Asheville, Boone, Burlington, Durham, Fayetteville, Greenville, Hickory, Raleigh and Rocky Mount.
Goble explained that the Shepherd’s House’s entry into the program came through the efforts of a supporter who thought it would benefit the facility.
“I don’t know how she found out about it,” he said. The supporter was able to send Goble a link to an Honor Card website, which led to him contacting Mangum. The Shepherd’s House was accepted after an application process.
“He was in the process of wanting to expand the program a little bit,” Goble said of the Greensboro artist.
This year’s Honor Card features a man talking to another outside a church, with the “Fall Into Me” theme referring to Christ’s promise to keep his open heart to those needing help.
“Over 25 years, they’re now starting to be collectors’ pieces,” Goble said of the Honor Cards.
“This is an amazing project that has provided more than $4 million to help homeless shelters and their clients.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.