The House of Mercy has been offering a home, food, clothing, and spiritual support to the homeless in Columbus since 1977 when the non-profit was founded by Ocie Harris.

It was recognized as one of the 1,000 Points of Light by then President George H.W. Bush.

In tonight’s News 3 Neighbors story, we’re focusing on a special program offered by the House of Mercy that has kids dreaming of a trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Bobby Harris, Jr. assumed the mantle of running the House of Mercy from his mother.  She initiated a program that Bobby hopes to continue.  Bobby recalls, “We took five homeless kids to Disneyworld for three days and we showed them the other side of what’s possible when you put forth hard work and effort.”

Since Bobby’s mother’s passing, he feels compelled to continue her legacy.  

He’s doing that through a program called “Tears to Ears” which has fourteen children from the House of Mercy currently participating.  “Tears to Ears is a work reward program in which a child with good grades, good in school and out of school behavior, and volunteerism can earn points throughout the year to go on a trip to a theme park, i.e. Disneyworld, at the beginning of the summer,” explains Harris.

Bobby says the support to homeless families provided through the House of Mercy helps put the kids on a path to success.  “When a kid has a place to sleep, food in the morning, a good wakeup, parents there in the evening to meet them, and school is on point, grades automatically shoot up.”

Bobby’s kids at the House of Mercy have had some highly talented role models over the past few months.  They have been the guests of the Columbus State University Lady Cougars basketball team during their home games.

Anita Howard, their coach, describes the kids this way…”They’re our sixth man.  Ever since they’ve been to the games, they sit behind the bench.  They cheer us on.  We went to them for Valentine’s Day and spread some love with them.  We painted their nails and played games with them.  I don’t think they’ve missed a home game since Valentine’s.”

Before the games, the kids get to go through the pre-game warnups with the team.  They’re even invited into the locker room prior to tipoff to hear the pep talk and game plan.  

Coach Howard adds, “They’re even on social media with us.  They get in our team pictures after the game when we win.  They’re kind of like family now.  I love it!”

Harris says the Tears to Ears Program is a perfect opportunity to keep the kids focused on their goal…a trip to Disneyworld through hard work and good behavior all year long.

You can help send the House of Mercy kids to Disneyworld by making a donation on the organization’s website: