Shelter could reopen next week

January 06, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- After almost nine months of being closed due to arson, New Hope Shelter could reopen next week if it passes inspections scheduled for Wednesday morning.

The local building code inspector and fire marshal are expected to tour the site before the sun rises. If renovations meet their approval, the shelter could again host up to 42 people -- like the woman who recently called to say she was being forced out of an apartment by her boyfriend.

"She had no place to go. People get in bad situations where they must move," Interim Director Bill Burcher said.

Burcher, pastor of Waynesboro's Friendship Baptist Church, joined the shelter's board in 2007. When the shelter's previous director, Jenna Freeman, resigned at the end of November 2008, Burcher stepped in to reopen the shelter and thrift shop after the April 19, 2008, fire in the back of the South Potomac Street building.


The fire itself caused manageable damage, but smoke and water proved problematic for shelter officials. They replaced the floors and drywall in the kitchen, hauled damaged merchandise from the thrift shop and installed a fire system that directly calls 911.

"We need to restock our food and the thrift store needs donations," Burcher said, saying volunteers are being contacted to ensure the shelter is staffed 24 hours a day.

Burcher talked about a "rebirth" for the shelter, saying workers have taken it post-fire "from an unorganized garbage dump to a place where someone could call home."

"This is a new beginning," Burcher said. "We're rebuilding from the ashes a whole new ministry."

New Hope Shelter, which opened in the late 1990s, has had a series of rebirths in its tumultuous past.

o Fire Marshal Jerry Hartman closed the shelter in September 2003 due to repeated fire code violations. He received criticism at the time because Tropical Storm Isabel was bearing down on the region.

o In 2005, the Waynesboro Borough Council denied grant money requested by shelter officials for a smoking deck, saying the money could be better used for more practical reasons.

o Finances grew increasingly strained in 2006, prompting the then-shelter manager and a dedicated volunteer to remove light bulbs and ask residents to wear coats. The pair attempted to close the shelter but were overruled by the board and asked to leave.

o Waynesboro police charged Logan Craig Taylor of Waynesboro with setting fire to a mattress propped behind a trash bin last April.

o The downstairs thrift shop -- the shelter's major source of income -- opened again in June 2008, but was quickly closed for failing to provide engineer-certified drawings of renovations.

Burcher has confidence in the latest rebirth.

"We're going to learn from mistakes and build on the successes of the previous director," he said.

Although the shelter received an insurance payout from the fire to pay for renovations, its savings account took a serious hit from the thrift shop closure. Jacob Washington was hired to organize, restock and manage the thrift shop.

"I have a desire to help others," he said.

Washington hauled damaged merchandise out of the shop on Tuesday morning, and said he was anxious to mop and dust. His vision is to create an open, well-designed area for browsing.

"From the few donors I've met so far, I'm expecting to have very nice stuff, good quality things," Washington said.

Burcher said the year-round shelter might be needed now more than ever.

"With the economy the way it is, people are losing jobs and they are losing their homes," he said.

New Hope Shelter

25 S. Potomac St., Waynesboro, Pa.


The Herald-Mail Articles