Donations, volunteers allow Salvation Army to create new homeless shelter -

Donations, volunteers allow Salvation Army to create new homeless shelter -

Donations, volunteers allow Salvation Army to create new homeless shelter

Jim Murtha, right, of New Richmond, Wis. along with fellow American Legion Post 80 members, installs a ceiling tile in the dinning room of the new Grace Place homeless shelter in New Richmond on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Thousands of volunteer hours, including hundreds of hours from members of the local American Legion post, have gone into renovating the former nursing home. The new Salvation Army-run shelter will replace a much smaller facility in Somerset, Wis. when it opens in October. (Pioneer Press: Andy Rathbun)

The beds are in their rooms at the new Grace Place homeless shelter in New Richmond, Wis. and soon the residents will be, too.

The shelter — the first of its kind in New Richmond, according to the Salvation Army — will open next month and more than double the capacity of the current Grace Place shelter in nearby Somerset, Wis. — capacity that is greatly needed to address the number of homeless people in the area.

«It’s sad when people call and we have to tell them we don’t have any room,» local Salvation Army director Duana Bremer said of the current homeless shelter.

That phone call was all too familiar to local Salvation Army workers last year, as they had to turn away more than a hundred families looking for a place to stay. With only 24 beds, the Somerset location quickly fills up. As of Wednesday, there was even someone sleeping on the porch, Bremer said.

The new shelter opens next month, and once fully staffed, it will be able to house as many as 64 people in the former retirement home’s 34 bedrooms. Common areas are greatly expanded, too.

«Whenever we wanted to give classes, we had to bus (the residents) to church basements,» said shelter director Lori Scheder. «Now, we have space to do it here.»

«I’m pretty darn excited,» Scheder said while watching workers install a plate glass window at the new shelter Wednesday.

More than $200,000 in renovations have gone into the building, which sat vacant for a couple of years before its owners, Roseville-based Presbyterian Homes & Services, gifted the building to the Salvation Army.

All the renovation money came from donations raised though a capital campaign, and it doesn’t reflect the thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture donated to the shelter or the thousands of dollars in discounts given to the Salvation Army by local merchants.

«This whole deal is driven by the community,» Bremer said.

One of the most valuable contributions to the new shelter has been time. Bremer said more than 7,000 volunteer hours have gone into the project, which is the local Salvation Army’s largest to date.

Members of New Richmond’s American Legion Post 80 were on hand to help out Wednesday. Post member Chuck Mehls, chairman of the project, said his group had donated more than 260 hours of volunteer time.

«It’s a great project,» he said as fellow members stood nearby on ladders, installing ceiling tiles in the shelter’s dining room.

The American Legion is sponsoring two rooms in the shelter, and those rooms will be primarily used by military veterans. Mehls said he’s known of veterans in the New Richmond area who have found themselves without a place to live.

«These guys don’t deserve that,» he said.

Donations, volunteers allow Salvation Army to create new homeless shelter -

Also helping out Wednesday was Rick Stefonec, a resident of the nearby unincorporated community of Boardman. Stefonec, who is retired, had been coming out six days a week to do volunteer work.

«I figured this was a real value to New Richmond, and I wanted it to get a good start,» he said.

More volunteers are needed to help with things such as painting, installing ceiling tiles and cleaning, and they’re invited to come out 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 5.

The Salvation Army also is seeking the donation of a wooden children’s play set. A list of other needed items is at sagraceplace.org .

To celebrate all the volunteer work, a community dinner, with a free-will offering, will be held from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Ready Randy’s Sports Bar and Grill in New Richmond.

On Oct. 11, a relay-style run/walk will be held at 8 a.m. from Somerset to New Richmond. Registration information can be found at sagrace place.org or by calling 715-247-2944.

After the run, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the new shelter location, at 505 W. Eighth St.

Visitors then will get to tour the facility, which will house residents beginning Oct. 13.

Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121.


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