CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Genny Hogan has always had a penchant for animals, so when her mother was tasked with creating an image for the YWCA's annual Thanksgiving Dinner fundraiser, she couldn't think of one more appropriate than her then-5-year-old daughter feeding the birds.
"When Genny was a little girl, she always loved animals, always," Sharon Harms said. "On Thanksgiving, she would always want to go out on the driveway and put down food for birds or whatever else was out there."
Now 21, Hogan's compassion for animals has extended into her adult life. She is a trained wildlife rescue agent and so comfortable with animals that a rescue opossum named Aerie can be found perched on her shoulder without much issue.
As the fundraiser's real-life poster child's giving sensibilities have developed, so have those of the YWCA Sojourner's Shelter for Homeless Women and Families. The organization will host its 27th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner to Aid the Homeless on Sunday. All proceeds from the event will benefit the shelter and its programs.
The event will host a buffet-style lunch, complete with musical entertainment and a vegetable soup that "is to die for," according to Margaret Taylor, director of the shelter.
Everything has been donated for the event -- from the venue to the food to the music. Volunteers from the organization's board of directors, as well as the community, will serve those in attendance, Taylor said.
This kind of team effort is routine for Sojourner's and has proven effective in the way the shelter runs its programs, which serve single women, families, men who have custody of their children and veterans.
"We do a lot of collaboration with all the different agencies here in the [Kanawha] Valley, because we all need funds," Taylor said.
While the organization is the recipient of more than 25 grants, Taylor said she still has to find about $185,000 to keep Sojourner's programs going. The shelter provides not only a place for women and families to stay, but also educational programs, job training and assistance in maintaining housing and employment.
The goal is to help those served by Sojourner's become self-sufficient, Taylor said, and community is key in that process.
"A society can only be judged according to how they take care of their least fortunate members," Harms said.
The 27th Annual Thanksgiving Benefit Dinner to Aid the Homeless will take place Sunday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $30, but children under 10 are admitted free.Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.