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Shelter officials remain hopeful for future in Waynesboro

October 03, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - They aim to offer hope to many, but today, officials at the Waynesboro New Hope Shelter are reserving a little bit for themselves. After almost closing their doors permanently this summer, this haven finds itself clinging to hope as they approach the harsh realities of winter.

"I knew that we had to act, because come Sept. 30, the shelter would have to stay open four months," said Russ Brezler, former president of the board of directors for the shelter on South Potomac Street in Waynesboro.

Brezler and his staff came to a crossroads in June of this year. As board president, he was keenly aware of the shelter's financial situation. Despite a funding surge in late 2005 which allowed the shelter to renovate its facility, by June, most of the funding and volunteer base had run out of steam.

"I call it burnout," said Violet Schmid, founder and former board president of the Waynesboro New Hope Shelter.

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With dwindling resources, the shelter, which is completely funded by donations and staffed by volunteers, found itself in a situation almost as dire as some of those it seeks to help.

"I came to a decision that if we couldn't generate volunteers, we would have to close because there was no way we could make it through the winter," Brezler said.

The decision by Brezler and former shelter manager Kathy Dietsch was met with some opposition on the board of directors, including Schmid, who cut short a trip after being informed.

"Five of us decided we didn't have to close, we wanted to save the shelter," Schmid said.

Brezler was asked to resign and though hesitant, he said he chose to tender his resignation rather than be asked a second time to leave.

The New Hope Shelter is grateful for Brezler and his work, which Schmid said was amazing. "But this is high burnout work," she added. "The work has to be shared by a group and he (Brezler) just took on too much."

The shelter has continued to operate despite shuffling its leadership and "taking a week to organize," as Schmid says, but it still faces the same problems it did this summer.

"I wish the shelter the best, I hope they can succeed," Brezler said. Emphasizing that he has "no regrets" over his service or his resignation, Brezler added he hopes the shelter can find the volunteers it needs to keep going.

According to Schmid, David Connolly is serving as "acting board president" until the board can vote on new officers.

Despite past differences, Brezler and Schmid seem to share similar views for the future of New Hope Shelter. Both believe at least 12 "active" board members are needed to operate the shelter. Brezler, however, said New Hope Shelter would need an additional 75 volunteers and grant money to make it through the winter.

"We spend a lot in the winter, but we have 11 on the board now and we have a slew of fundraising ideas," said Schmid, who commented that volunteers were ringing her phone off the hook the week the shelter took off to organize.

Volunteers at the shelter laughed at the thought of closing, one of them asking, "Do we look empty?"

On Monday, New Hope Shelter housed 13 residents.

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