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Operation Care next year will expand its women’s center by adding an additional location on Main Street in downtown Shelbyville – for free.
What’s more, the acquisition of the new building won’t cost Operation Care a dime, with the purchase of a 2-story, 4-plex frame house next door to Bell House Restaurant having been paid by a $125,000 donation from Southeast Christian Church.
Jeff Johnson, executive director of Operation Care, who is a former member at the church, which is based in Louisville and has more than 20,000 members, is a big supporter of projects in Shelby County.
“A lot of people in Shelby County attend church there,” Johnson said. “They [the church] are also big sponsors of our [Operation Care] Mercy Medical Clinic.”
Southeast representative Vanessa Parker, who last week presented the check to Johnson, said Southeast was glad to help out.
“Our church just really has a heart for women,” she said. “We’re really excited about it [the facility], as a church and as a mission. We’re very blessed.”
Johnson said the building has been serving as a residence up until now and contains four apartments, which are occupied. That’s why the building won’t be available until the end of 2014 for a second women’s center.
“We’re going to give those clients up to a year to relocate,” he said.
The new location will be an extension of Operation Care’s Omega House, the women’s shelter already in existence. That facility was so designated in March, when it was elevated to being more than just a shelter, Johnson said.
He added it now is being called a women’s center because the object is not just to house homeless women and their children but also to help make them self-sufficient. Residents are required to hold jobs and pay a small portion of their salaries for rent.
“It’s better for us and better for them,” Johnson said. “It helps them to build their confidence and self-esteem and helps them to learn to be more accountable.”
Johnson said he had to change the structure of the shelter because of new federal guidelines for women’s shelters – guidelines that the original shelter, which houses 20, couldn’t meet.
“We had to reach out to the community,” he said, adding that so many organizations and businesses have really stepped up to help organize and support the fundraisers.
“The emphasis is on a women’s center, rather than a shelter, because it’s about accountability and enrichment, because we want to do our part to get these women work ready to fulfill their part in their community,” he said.
More family oriented
Johnson said the new building not only would help to meet the growth that the existing women’s center has experienced, but it also would allow women with adolescent boys to be accepted, something that had not been possible previously.
“We will be able to offer four families space, which will include boys over twelve [years old] for the first time, because we couldn’t take them at the other facility,” he said. “There [existing center], they [residents] have their own rooms and share a community room and kitchen, but here, they will have four separate apartments. So if we have a mom who has, say, a fourteen-year-old, boy, we can take him.
“We also have a partnership with a group that has a ministry for young boys who come from difficult situations, to minister to them and mentor them.
“This will offer moms a step up from our place on Washington Street, a more secure, long-term place where they will pay to stay at a greatly reduced rate.”
He said that self-sufficiency programs already in place at the Washington Street facility would be executed to an even greater degree at the new place.
“We will be teaching these girls from the ground floor up in a variety of areas: financial, cooking and parenting classes, through our partnerships with ALC [A Loving Choice Pregnancy Center] and the Serenity Center, which will offer counseling,” he said.
“We’re teaching them how to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives by teaching them good shopping skills, budget and menu planning, all different types of things – they will even pay their all bills and have savings accounts and jobs.”
Johnson said the success since these measures were implemented in March has been phenomenal.
“The level of pride these women have taken in themselves, has just been incredible,” he said.
Johnson said the money donated by Southeast Christian Church would cover the purchase price of the building but that the structure would require some improvements made before it could become a second women’s center.
“We have to work within the parameters of the [Shelby County] historic district,” he said. “We’ve been in touch with Fred [Rogers, coordinator of the Shelbyville Historic District Commission] and Ryan Libke [executive director of the Triple S Planning and Zoning Commission]. Steve [Hornback, Operation Care board member] and I went down and met with them personally, and we feel that we are compliance with everything they want.”
Johnson said the modifications would cost about $40,000, but that he has already had received contributions to cover a portion of that bill.
“Just last week, I got fourteen thousand dollars in contributions – one was the thousand dollars from one individual – then our spring gala will be in May or June. All that funding will go to the repairs,” he said. “We’re going to make it look really nice.”
Rogers said that most people don’t understand the difference between the historic district and the historical society, especially because the two entities are housed in the same building on Main Street.
Whereas the historical society is an organization composed of a group of people whose goal is to educate the public on historical issues, Rogers said that his authority lies in oversight of tradition and protecting the historical integrity of downtown Shelbyville.
“The historic district is a zoning overlay that has its own ordinance and its own regulatory oversight, and its function is to regulate change over time within the historic district,” he said. “We have a set of guidelines, and we try to operate within those guidelines.”
The historic district, established in 1985, runs along Main, Washington, and portions of Henry Clay, Bland and Prospect streets between the Shelby County Fairgrounds and 3rd Street.