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Shelters share holiday wish lists

Local family havens need donations

POSTED: December 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Evelyn Reynolds, left, and Sylvia Stoltzfus talk in the kitchen of My Sister's Place. The kitchen doubles as a dining room in the small house that helps care for homeless women and children. One of the wishes for the future of My Sister's Place is a larger house that can be expanded.

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While most shoppers are busy compiling their lists of gifts that need to be purchased for loved ones this holiday season, many area shelters are hoping they will add a few items for those who are less fortunate.

"With the economy being so bad, we are seeing more and more women in need of our services than ever before," said Sylvia Stoltzfus, executive director of My Sisters’ Place.

My Sister’s Place is a small shelter that offers a three-month program to help homeless women and their children get on their feet.

"We help the women find jobs, help with child care and teach them life skills that they can use to keep their lives on the right track," Stoltzfus said. "We teach them skills that a lot of us take for granted because we know how to do it, like how to save money and how to make nutritious and affordable meals for your children."

Because the shelter on Davis Street in Gainesville only has room and a license to house 10 people at a time, shelter staff say that their greatest wish for the holiday season is to raise enough money to build a larger center.

"You have no idea how much it breaks our heart to have to turn a mother and her children away when she comes to us for help because we don’t have enough space," Stoltzfus said. "Right now we are working hard to raise enough money so that we can build a new shelter that can accommodate more women and that has room to grow if we need to. So far we have raised around $97,000, but we probably need at least $200,000 to get started."

The shelter is in the process of looking for land on which to build the new shelter.

"If someone has some land that they wanted to donate to us, that would really be great," Stoltzfus said.

My Sister’s Place isn’t the only women’s shelter with a holiday wish list. Peace Place, a shelter for battered women and their children in neighboring Jackson County, also could use holiday donations.

"We’ve been pretty steady all year, and, unfortunately, during the holidays we are just as full as we are the rest of the year," said Char Garrett, Peace Place executive director.

While the shelter works diligently to provide its temporary residents with everything they need to thrive, Garrett says there are some places where the facility is lacking.

"We’d really like to get a DVD player because we’ve had a lot of people donate DVDs, but unfortunately we don’t have anything to play them on," Garrett said.

"With state funding being cut, we really didn’t want to use any of that money to purchase a DVD player because there are so many other things that we need."

Garrett also says that Peace Place could use gifts that they could give to the teenagers who find themselves at the shelter during the holidays.

"We never have anything to give to the teenagers; we’re always scrambling to find something for them," she said. "It would be nice to get some gift cards to places like Wal-Mart or Old Navy so we could give those as gifts to the older kids to go pick out something that they like."


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