A Thanksgiving to Cherish

Posted October 15 2016 in #PeopleFirst, #SwipeOutHunger

Kelly Gunsch is the Executive Director for Welcome House, a faith based non-profit located in Mandan, ND created to serve the needs of homeless families and to provide assistance to prevent people in our community from becoming homeless. Kelly describes their mission, “We surround families with case management and support services for up to three years—to help families navigate life challenges and prevent another episode of homelessness. Our mission is to connect local families with temporary shelter and supportive resources that lead to self-sufficiency. We envision a community where no family experiences hunger or homelessness.”

 “She turned to thank us with tears coming down her cheeks and told us how surprised the kids were going to be when they came home from school and saw food in the cupboards.”

“Part of our shelter program is to provide extended case management to families for up to three years after they leave. Last fall ‘Susan’ contacted us because her family was having a difficult time. Susan was not able to work because she was undergoing cancer treatment. She had no income and expensive medical bills. Her husband’s income alone was just not enough to cover rent, phone, vehicle costs and groceries. Susan remembered her experience with Welcome House the year before and called to see if we could help. When we spoke, Susan told me she was sitting in a dark apartment (because their electricity had just been shut off) and that there was no food in the cupboards. It was only three days before Thanksgiving so I invited her to meet with our new case manager and told her we would put together groceries for the week, including a traditional Thanksgiving meal. An hour later, our case manager and I met Susan face-to-face and we worked to find connections and resources to help with many of their urgent needs. Before she left, staff and volunteers worked together to fill several boxes with cereal, snacks, soups – putting together non-perishable items than can be used together to create meals. When I asked about other things they needed, Susan said they had hardly any hygiene items left so we also put together a care package with shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste and more. Next, we put together a Thanksgiving feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and more! When we helped Susan carry the heavy boxes to her friend’s car, it was obvious how much this small gesture meant to her. She turned to thank us with tears coming down her cheeks and told us how surprised the kids were going to be when they came home from school and saw food in the cupboards. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the office as we quietly walked back into the shelter, reflecting on her words and thankfulness. Truly a Thanksgiving to cherish.”

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Welcome House’s larger family shelter was officially opened October 20, 2014 and has nine family bedrooms, community living areas including a spacious kitchen and dining room, a living room and a children’s playroom. Recently they finished a computer resource room which allows residents to search and apply for jobs online and to attend trainings to build skills such as resume writing, budgeting, using computer software.

In 2015 they served 13,050 meals and more than 4,500 snacks to men, women and children staying in the shelter. For those same families, Welcome House provided over 8,000 nights of shelter to 239 children and 169 adults.

“We have over 20 regular volunteers and in 2015, together they worked 1,017 hours in our shelter.  We love to do public presentations on our program and the needs of low-income and homeless families. Our staff, volunteers and generous partners come from throughout North Dakota and together, we are working to meet the unique needs of each family so they will have the life-skills and resources needed to become and remain self-sufficient.  Our main source of program revenue is through grants (including some state and federal shelter/housing funds). Donations from generous individuals and businesses are our second largest source of funding. Currently, Welcome House is holding a raffle fundraiser and tickets are $10 each, sold through Jan. 31st (drawing on February 1st). We are also planning for our first-ever 5K fundraiser in May 2016 and we hold an annual fall athletic event called ‘Docs, Crocs, Scholars and Frocks.’”  Kelly feels that Affordable housing is the biggest need in her community.  She states that affordable housing would allow families and individuals to afford food, utilities, transportation and other necessities.

Non-perishable food items most often needed:

  • Canned chicken
  • BBQ sauce
  • Sugar
  • Ranch dressing
  • Pasta sauce
  • Coffee
  • Mayo

Household items:

  • Paper products
  • Hygiene items
  • Floor cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Bath towels
  • Wash cloths

Gift cards to grocery stores Walmart & Target are also greatly appreciated.

You can find Welcome House on their website and on Facebook

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