This is the last in a series of four profiles of the 2011 Westport First Award winners sponsored by the Republican Town Committee. Profiled previously were G. Kenneth Bernhard, Staples Tuition Grants and the late Cameron Bruce.

The seed was planted in 1984 when a group of volunteers got permission to use a town-owned building on Post Road to provide transitional housing to people down on their luck.

Twenty-seven years later, Homes with Hope has blossomed into a multi-faceted multi-location organization that provides homeless individuals and families with shelter, food, life-skills training and support. Its mission is to provide the facilities, supportive and structured environment that enable homeless people to build self-sufficient lives.

With professional staff and more than 400 volunteers, the non-profit organization operates six separate housing programs -- including emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent homes; a community kitchen that serves 30,000 meals a year; a food bank; an intensive employment-readiness program for men and women with significant barriers to employment, including mental illness, substance abuse or homelessness; and a program that supports at-risk women who are struggling to create stable and self-sufficient lives.

Homes for Hope will be honored Sunday, March 6, along with other recipients at the fourth annual Westport First Awards and Lincoln Day Dinner at the Patterson Club. The awards are a program of the Westport Republican Town Committee and recognize outstanding service to the community.

Housing the group provides includes:

Saugatuck Apartments: Provides permanent affordable housing, plus support of a professional case manager to formerly homeless, mentally ill individuals and families.

Westport Rotary Centennial House: Provides permanent supportive housing in two, two-bedroom family units and four, one-bedroom units for singles or couples.

Fair Street Apartments: Has five units available for lease in a 57-unit affordable-housing complex in Norwalk.

Gillespie Center: Provides 15 emergency beds and support services for men; usually operates at more than 100 percent capacity.

Hoskins' Place: Provides four emergency beds for women and the same services as the men's shelter.

Bacharach Community: Provides emergency shelter and caseworker help to up to as many as six families in four houses.

Tickets to the 2011 Westport First Awards and Lincoln Day Dinner of the Republican Town Committee may be purchased by contacting Neil Wessan at 203-254-7044 or visiting www.westportrepublicans.com. Tickets are $100, and a portion of the net proceeds will be donated to Homes with Hope and Staples Tuition Grants.