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Homeless shelter to open

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Mission of Hope House founder Lori Prahl throws her hands in the air in applause as the ribbon is cut at a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 24. Scott Bellile Photo

New London facility serves county

By Scott Bellile

The Mission of Hope House unveiled its facility to the public Thursday, Aug. 23, indicating Waupaca County’s first 24/7 homeless shelter is almost ready to operate.

Volunteers for the nonprofit MOHH led tours for visitors, showcasing that after four years of planning, the infrastructure is in place from the architectural components to the furniture.

However, the doors will not open to clients for another three months.

The organization must finish coordinating volunteers and raising additional dollars toward the annual $150,000 operating budget, MOHH co-founder Lori Prahl said, but the plan is to open as the weather gets colder.

Before cutting the ribbon, Prahl emphasized to the crowd that the grand opening celebrates what Waupaca County residents accomplished through their donations of dollars, items and talents.

“This project took place because of the community, for the community, collectively together by the community,” Prahl said. “This is a miracle.”

Prahl highlighted gestures big and small that exemplify community collaboration: Bemis committing $50,000 on day one, volunteers stitching together quilts for all 21 beds and a Manawa farmer selling a wagon’s worth of organic corn to raise funds.

“This place wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you folks and all the other people in the community,” said Dick Gamble, vice president of the MOHH Board of Directors. “Whether you [donated] an hour or a hundred hours … a few dollars or a larger gift, they’re all meaningful. They all support the mission.”

Although the shelter is completed, community partnerships will remain essential in serving clients in all areas, from offering them life skills classes to driving them to job interviews. Partners will include the Waupaca County government, area churches, B.A.B.E.S. Inc. Child Abuse Prevention Program, CAP Services and Feeding America, Prahl said.

During facility tours, MOHH volunteers showed the public room-by-room how their contributions brought the shelter together. For example, all furnishings were donated to MOHH directly or acquired from The Bridge Thrift Store, a resale shop that the shelter opened across the street in 2017, according to Rachel Neely of the MOHH Board of Directors.

As visitors enter, the first room they pass is a classroom. There volunteers will teach homeless clients skills such as writing resumes, applying for jobs, budgeting and parenting.

Next to the classroom, a community room offers families space to gather, watch TV and use computers. A window provides a view of the vegetable gardens they will be tasked with maintaining.

A few doors down are the dining room and kitchen, where clients will eat and learn cooking and canning.

Visitors pass a sunroom on their way to six bedrooms, which are spacious enough for families to spread out yet stay together. Furnishings may include storage lockers, cubbies, bunk beds and an infant cradle.

Rooms throughout MOHH are decorated with inspirational signs.

“Every room has a sign that says like ‘Hope,’ ‘Love,’ something meaningful like ‘Believe,’ just to let people know that they can believe in themselves, that they have a chance to make it and step up into the world,” Neely said. “So they came with nothing and they’ll go away with pride.”

The facility will be secured by a bulletproof entrance and surveillance cameras inside. A staff member and a volunteer will always be present.

Two state lawmakers who came to New London for a tour said they were impressed with what they saw.

State Rep. Kevin Petersen, R-Waupaca, said Waupaca County has overnight homeless shelters, but MOHH will be the first shelter to be open constantly.

“This is just great,” Petersen said. “It’s giving people a hand up, that when they’re at a down point in their life, it helps them out so that they can go on with their life and get them back on their feet and move them forward.”

State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, called the facility “beautiful.” He said New London should be proud of what it accomplished.

“The thing that’s amazing is the community came together, saw a need and said let’s do something about it, which is fabulous,” Olsen said. “That’s what makes our country great, is people see a need, get together and help the less fortunate.”

To donate or volunteer for MOHH, learn more by visiting www.missionofhopehouse.org.

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