OTTUMWA — After seeing a man bleeding from walking barefoot last winter and seeing an 84-year old woman sleeping in a tent, Whatsoever You Do Administrator Mary Margaret Butler knew she had to do something to fix the homelessness situation.
Whatsoever You Do (WYD) is a 501c3 Christian, non-profit organization dedicated to helping those less fortunate in Wapello County. For some time, Butler and those with WYD wanted to renovate the former East End Presbyterian Church and turn into into a women and children’s shelter.
Their vision is slowly coming true. Butler said WYD is currently raising money to renovate the old church. Right now, they are working to raise money for the “second phase of renovation,” which consists of remodeling.
Butler does not know when the other phases will happen, but she hopes WYD can raise enough to get to the next phases. WYD’s goal is to raise $100,000 for the second phase. So far, Butler has managed to receive a grant from the Legacy Foundation to fix the roof. She’s working on submitting her request for grants, but wants to avoid government grants for a specific reason.
“As a Christian organization we want to keep God as the main focus,” Butler said. “Sometimes the government will come in and tell people what to do.”
Numerous volunteers from churches have already helped WYD with the renovation, but Butler hopes more residents will provide monetary means. “Homeless shelters always need help,” Butler said. “The more fundraising that comes in — the faster we can get renovated.”
Butler hopes to have the women and children's shelter up and running within a year. In the meantime, WYD will continue to fundraiser as much as possible. They’ve done a fundraiser last year at Fareway, selling raffle tickets and will have an upcoming fundraiser on September 14 at Elks lodge. “This will be a chicken and noodle dinner fundraiser,” she said. “There will be clowns and games. It will be a great way for different people to come together.”
With fundraising success raising and volunteers increasing — Butler sees the shelter coming together and grateful for the support. “Many hands make light work,” she said. “I thank everyone for what they are doing to help. We are dependent on the community.”
This women and children’s shelter is not meant as a replacement to the family crisis center. “We’ll help women not in an abusive situation,” Butler said, “because we can’t put our clients in danger, but we can help women who were kicked out of their homes.”
The shelter will teach women to be self-sufficient. “We’re going to make them feel at home,” she said. “They need to take incentive to make things better. If they don’t want that, we can’t help them.”
“We’ll be open on Saturday and Sunday,” Butler said, “there are no places for people to eat on the weekend, so people can come in and get a hot meal on the weekends. We’ll keep it open because people even have to eat on the weekends. The Sanctuary will be open for men who have no place to go. They (men) can’t stay overnight with the women and children because of regulations, but can come to at least get some warmth.”
Butler sees this women and children's shelter alleviating homelessness. “We had to do something to take a leap of faith,” Butler said, “Nothing doesn’t happen if someone doesn’t take that leap of faith. There is a great need for homeless shelters in Southeast Iowa.”