A $500,000 grant will fund improvements and repairs to the Beacon of Hope building, and ministry officials consider the windfall a blessing.
However, they are also concerned people in the community, whom they say have been generous in supporting the men's shelter since it opened its door in 2010, will wrongly think local support is no longer needed.
The money, said Greg Olson, president of the Beacon's board of directors, is only for infrastructure improvements "so we can accomplish our mission. None of it can go for operating expenses. Therefore, we hope people will understand that their contributions are gratefully received for operating expenses, which is what they have been doing. We don't want any misconception that all of a sudden, we have more than we need and have them forget about us."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Steve Roe, executive director of the Beacon of Hope, gets a cup of water from the sink in the facility’s kitchen. A $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Association will allow making some needed repairs and upgrades.
With First Federal Savings Bank of Iowa as its project sponsor, the Beacon of Hope applied for and received a $500,000 Federal Home Loan Bank grant through its Affordable Housing Program.
"I just want to say how pleased First Federal is to be involved in this project with the Beacon of Hope," said Tom Chalstrom, president and chief executive officer. "We've had a long relationship with Steve (Roe,executive director of the Beacon of Hope) and were certainly aware of and in support of his early efforts."
Last spring, Roe approached First Federal officials and asked them to sponsor the grant as a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank project
First Federal is the project sponsor on an application by Beacon of Hope Ministries to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines for participation in the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program.
In a competitive process across a five-state region, the application for a $500,000 grant was approved.
The grant will be used to fund improvements and repairs to the Beacon of Hope building at 1021 First Ave. N.
None of the grant money will be used for the operations of the Beacon of Hope.
The sponsorship supports First Federal's history of supporting efforts in the community to meet housing needs.
Other First Federal projects include the Northridge Apartments, municipal affordable housing programs, First Home program Million Dollar Lender, and a regulatory rating of Outstanding in meeting the responsibilities of the Community Reinvestment Act.
First Federal's role will be to facilitate the payment of the grant by monitoriing the progress of the building work as it is completed.
"We've done this for the city of Fort Dodge in the past, and we absolutely endorse the idea and supported the application," Chalstrom said.
Roe said the former Masonic Lodge building at 1021 First Ave. N. was "perfect for what we needed it for, and it's better to use these old buildings instead of letting them fall apart." The building, he said "had the space that we needed, and a nice, huge dining room and enough room for a renovated bathroom."
But bringing the structure up to building code standards has been neither cheap, nor easy.
Receiving the grant will allow the ministry to focus its efforts on helping people, Roe said.
"By us getting this money, it helps up to become the ministry that God called us to be," he said. "We don't have to focus on trying to get all this stuff up to code. I don't think people realized how dilapidated the building was."
Some of the structure's shortcomings were obvious; some were not.
For example, in the fall, an inspection determined that the building elevator, which Roe said operated perfectly, didn't have a bulkhead, which was required of any elevator installed before 1975.
"It's a $40,000 expense," he said. "If we could not come up with the money to fix that, they were going to shut our elevator down. We have a lot of handicapped people who come for meals and who live with us."
Two other necessary improvements are exterior tuckpointing, which will cost $100,000, and installation of a sprinkler system on the second floor and the basement, which brings an $80,000 price tag.
Central air conditioning, which would be a much-appreciated addition, would cost about another $80,000. During last summer's heat wave, St. Olaf Lutheran Church allowed people from the Beacon to sleep there at night.
The largest single expense the grant will help fund is a $150,000 renovation of the kitchen.
"We do not meet code. We're not supposed to be using the kitchen," Roe said, "We have meals brought in by church groups."
The electrical system throughout the building also needs to be redone to meet code, he said.
New windows to would improve the building's energy efficiency would be nice, Roe said, but won't be within the budget even with the grant.
With some of the physical improvements funded, the ministry to be able to expand who it helps and how it does so, Roe said.
"The broader vision of the Beacon of Hope is not just where we are at now," he said. "The broader vision is to be a beacon to the whole community, not just homeless men. My goal is that we will be able to have a place where people will be able to come and get clothes, a place where they can get their needs met."
One important thing to remember, Olson said, is that the Beacon of Hope isn't just a shelter; it's a ministry and using the FHLB grant allowed the ministry to carry out its work without government restrictions.
"We don't take federal money because their strings are such that they have to have a secular bent, and that does not go with our mission. The lord is directing us to do these things. We've been successful so far ... and I think we will continue to be successful. It's not easy, but we're doing it," he said.
And Roe added a final thought.
"It's important that the community knows that we are only doing this because of their support," he said. "Our doors wouldn't be open if it wasn't for them."
Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com