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Monday, Jan. 26, 2015

Whosoever Will Center gives more than shelter

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Hard times befall everyone from time to time, though some feel it more than others.

A person can find himself without a job and a home in the blink of an eye, even whenever he has done nothing wrong himself. People like Donald Black and wife Cheri make life easier for these unfortunate people.

The Blacks have been running the Whosoever Will Outreach Center for just under a year now, and approximately 30 people have benefited from their charity since the center's opening.

Located one mile west of 59, on West S.R. 42, the outreach center currently houses three people, though the number varies from month to month. Donald, who is "basically the chaplain" of the center, works full-time at the center, interviewing prospective residents and handling day-to-day operations alongside his wife.

"Whosoever Will is for those who need temporary shelter," Donald said. "We also offer a Christian 12-step program, though the center itself is not exclusively for drug users and recovering addicts."

The center is affiliated with the Church of the living Christ, their main sponsor, though religious beliefs aren't necessary to take shelter there. Donald said that "it doesn't matter what church a resident goes to" and that "the center isn't really contingent with the church."

What does matter is giving the best help possible to clients. Besides offering housing, the center helps its residents locate and hold down both housing and jobs. They've had plenty of success stories, though not everyone who comes through their door can be helped. They've helped one of their current residents track down a job at a local filling station and say that he hopes to find a place to live "very soon."

Money, as with any non-profit service, can grow tight this time of year. Donald said that the center was initially supposed to be housed in town, but that was so cost prohibitive they had to locate the program in their old church.

"Our church was there for seven years, but it grew beyond capacity," he said. "We were going to stay in town at church, but rent and such would cost too much, so we decided to put ourselves in a place that was already bought and paid for."

Though food and clothes are rarely ever a problem, utility bills can be a real thorn in the shelter's side. Donald said that electric and gas bills are the biggest problems, and total utility bills can run as high as $600 during the winter months.

"A lot of it's gas and electric," he said. "Part of the building is heated with gas and part of it is heated with electricity, so it can really get high up there when you have to heat the place."

They can house about 15 people comfortably, though Donald said that in emergencies it can take as many as 20 people.

The hardest part of the job, he said "is financial," though "being there 24/7 is difficult, and the fact that we're a religious organization and get no government funds can hurt us at times."

The Blacks live in the facility, doing day-to-day tasks as well as enforcing rules and making sure everything on site is calm. While they've had problem guests in the past, they have yet to have a violent one, and they try to help those who do cause problems.

"Everyone is going to have their own problems," he said. "When you get 12 strangers together, just like anywhere, there's going to be some talk. Part of the job is to stay on top of things and make sure there's no trouble. If there is, you try and talk to the people and set them in another direction before confrontation occurs."

Donald was a correctional officer for the Putnamville Office of Correction before his work at the shelter, watching a dormitory containing 150 inmates.

The length of time one will stay at the center varies. According to the Blacks, some people will stay a few weeks or even months while trying to hammer down work arrangements, while others simply need a place to stay for the evening because of car difficulties. 90 days is their cutoff date, a period of time in which "most anyone should be able to find a job," according to Cheri.

Though the base of their funds comes from the church, they receive private contributions as well. One restaurant owner in town, who wished not to be named, donates $100 a month to help battle expenses.

"Some people just need a little encouragement," Donald said. "There are a lot of people out there who don't know about the things available to them for help.

"To turn someone into a productive, working civilian is great," he continued. "Some of these people would be headed for prison if we didn't intervene. You can't help 'em all, but we've set a large percentage of them on their feet."

The Blacks encourage anyone who would like to help to contact them at 446-5127.



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