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St. John's Shelter continues quiet, yet valuable, work

March 31, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

On April 15, St. John's Shelter, an outreach project of St. John's Episcopal Church, will observe its 16th anniversary of providing a roof over the heads of many homeless families.

There will be no party, no big celebration. The observance will be marked as quietly as the work of the shelter has been since it began in the late 1980s as an effort to fill a need in Washington County.

"We began by buying a building in February 1987 and we have been able to maintain the momentum all these years," said Bill Soulis, who served as project coordinator then and has remained involved.

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Located at 14-16 Randolph Ave., the shelter is a six-apartment complex that in 2002 provided shelter to 29 families comprising 115 individuals for a total of 7,048 nights that beds were provided.

The basic operating budget of the shelter is $33,700, which equates to a cost of around $4.80 per bed per night, according to Krista Lodter, grants coordinator for the shelter.

"I have been a member of the church for about eight years but only recently did I get involved with the shelter as a volunteer," Lodter said.

Through other endeavors involving children, Lodter said she became aware that there are children in the community she felt she could help through the shelter.

"I figured my two children have had their fair share in life and I wanted other children to have their share, too," Lodter said.

The shelter is supported by about $13,000 per year in government grants, with the remainder of the funding coming from private gifts and grants.

"We provide a very valuable service to the community at a very small expenditure of government funds, no small consideration in these times of shrinking government resources," Soulis said.

The founding church, which is located at 101 S. Prospect St., gives $1,000 a year toward the shelter, Soulis said. Rounding out the annual budget have been the federal grants, personal gifts and special offerings, Soulis said.

"In addition, we have been very successful in getting gaming fund money for big repairs that have been done at the building," Soulis said.

John Chabot is case manager at the shelter. Most of the clients are referred through the Community Action Council and when they arrive, they are aided in their efforts to receive long-term help.

His wife, Joyce Chabot, is currently serving as president of the shelter board, which is separate from the church and now includes members from St. John's as well as St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Lappans.

"John follows up with them and networks them to where they need to go," Soulis said. "Both he and Joyce work tirelessly to make the shelter work."

One of the pluses at St. John's Shelter is its ability to house families. Many other shelters in the area can take women or women and children, and some can take only men.

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