Jan Enright pulled up to Hope House and could barely believe it.
The Mooresville landscape designer knows a yard in need when she sees one.
"Oh, this is ugly as sin," she thought. "How can this be refreshing" for the temporarily homeless women and their children who live at the home?
On Sept. 11, Enright will lead fellow volunteers in a one-day transformation of the grounds.
They'll install a vegetable garden and fence it to keep deer out. They'll add window boxes to the deck of the home for residents to grow herbs.
And they'll create a 25-by-25-foot pit-gravel labyrinth in the yard beyond the parking lot. It will resemble a five-petal flower, the petals representing Christianity's sign of the fish.
Hope House residents will walk through a 7-foot-tall arbor before entering the labyrinth, which will have a star design at its center.
Volunteers will landscape the labyrinth with mondo grass, variegated sun liriope and blue creeping phlox. The phlox will form the petals.
"I feel like it's very hopeful," Enright said of her design. "It will be a restful place where the women can go away to and reflect."
The labyrinth will include various paths to represent the choices we have at all times in life, Enright said.
"The beauty of Hope House is, here are these women suddenly at a point where they have to make choices, and just to have a little time to make those choices, in a sheltered, protected environment, is huge," Enright told me last week outside the home at Stumptown Road and Northcross Drive.
Hope House has assisted 35 women since opening last year. It's the only home of its kind in the Lake Norman area, providing transitional housing, career counseling and access to various other services to help the women live independently.
"It's a hand up, not a handout," Enright said.
Enright learned of the home from Dr. Lee Beth Lindquist, her primary-care doctor at Lakeside Family Physicians in Cornelius. Hope House had been Lindquist's dream for at least four years.
Geoff and Deborah Bowen of Troutman-based EFC Builders helped lead other volunteers in renovating the 4,000-square-foot ranch-style home.
Enright said she can empathize with women at the home: She found herself alone 13 years ago with a 10-year-old and just $300, she said.
She'd given up her career for two years to move to the N.C. mountains in an unsuccessful attempt to save her marriage.
"'Oh, my God, what am I going to do?'" she remembers thinking. "'How will I function? How will I care for myself and my family?' It's terrifying."
The late Kay Kincaid of Farm House Gardeners in Statesville served as her mentor in helping Enright re-establish her career, she said. Like the women at Hope House, she got a "hand up," too, from Kincaid and others in the community.
"It's just so much fun to get to do this, because I know how these women feel," Enright said.