Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 28, 2013

Homeless shelter observes 1st anniversary


---- — MT. VERNON — A community celebration to observe the one-year anniversary of the opening of the New Life Family Center operated by Lifeboat Alliance will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s our way of saying thank you to everyone who has touched facility,” said Jenny O’Daniel, executive director of Lifeboat Alliance. “Since we opened last Oct. 1 we’ve had 16,500 volunteer hours. That’s huge when you think about that many people who support our guests.”

As an example, O’Daniel said she had

two women come out every Friday morning, serving as volunteers.

“People are coming in and volunteering because they believe in what we’re doing. They’re goodhearted people,” O’Daniel said.

O’Daniel said the open house on Sunday is open to the entire community.

“We will have tours available throughout the facility, and some mock rooms open,” O’Daniel said. At 2 p.m., a prayer circle will be organized, and following prayer, the children of the facility will launch balloons with a note attached. “I hope everyone can come out, enjoy cake and socialize.” O’Daniel said.

Since the facility opened, the lives of its residents have been transformed.

“It’s gratifying and very rewarding,” O’Daniel said. “I can tell you from where I sit that no two days are the same. Anytime you can sit back and watch someone’s life transform in 30 to 60 days from no employment and no confidence to having employment and a little step in their stride, it’s very satisfying.”

She added, “Without my caseworkers it wouldn’t be possible. It takes a lot of time to sit down and help a resident, and a lot of time in relationship building.”

In March 2011, the Mt. Vernon City Council approved rezoning the property at 1717 Jefferson Street to R-3, which created a conditional use for residential facility for homeless persons in the city ordinances and granted a conditional use to Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity and Lifeboat Alliance to put a homeless shelter on the property. Habitat received the property from Petersen Healthcare as a donation on the condition the organization pays about $35,000 in back taxes due on the facility. A month later, Habitat announced an anonymous donor challenging the community to raise $100,000 to be matched, and the community responded. The name was chosen by the anonymous donor of $100,000.

The Lifeboat Alliance is operated by a 12-member Board of Directors, led by the Rev. John Iffert.