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Holiday of hope

This Thanksgiving, residents of the local men’s shelter prepare to observe a

November 19, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, lifestyle@messengernews.net , Messenger News

The holidays can be tough for those who have less.

Fortunately for the homeless men at the Beacon of Hope men's shelter, plenty of generous people are working to make sure they're fed and given a place to sleep this Thanksgiving.

And many of the men are very thankful.

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Larry Madsen often sits in the chapel and reads at the Beacon of Hope men’s shelter. Madsen said he has read the Bible cover to cover, and wants to know as much of it as he can. This Thanksgiving, he is grateful for the Beacon and the staff, who he said will reach into their own pocket when the men are in need.

"If I wasn't here, I'd be eating roots off daisies. I really would," said Larry Madsen, a resident of the shelter for about a year and a half.

On Thanksgiving Day, a volunteer group is going to bring in a meal for the men to eat, said shelter director Steve Roe.

"They volunteered last year and they're going to do it again," Roe said. "They're bringing in the meal. They'll do the whole turkey, stuffing and the works."

Kevin Collins, a resident who works the kitchen, said he's going to help out with the meal, or if he's not needed, then with the dishes afterward.

"I'm really thankful for being here on Thanksgiving," he said.

Collins came from Ohio, and has also lived in Sioux City. He believes God made a place for him to come and stay at the Beacon, because this is where God wants him to be.

"I can feel God working in this place," he said.

"I know God gave me a mission here. I need help; I'm an alcoholic," he added. "But he sent me back to help others too, and helping others, that's how I'm helping myself."

Rob Fretz said he is thankful for the Beacon because he's accepted and loved there as a person. Fretz lived in Des Moines, and he said his experience in the homeless programs there was full of strict rules, not understanding.

"I was having struggles with those programs," Fretz said. "I didn't feel like people really cared about me there, or loved me, or accepted me for who I was like I do here."

Another thing to be thankful for, he said, is that while many other shelters in America have problems with bedbugs, the Beacon does not. Fretz said it was because of the grace of God.

Fretz will eat at the shelter for Thanksgiving.

"If I could do something else for thanksgiving, I think I would have my daughter come here so she could experience the people that I've met here, and what's going on here," he said.

Fretz leads Bible studies for the men, Roe said.

Madsen, a Fort Dodge native, said after he went through a divorce and many of his old friends died, the stress was too much for him to handle.

"I didn't know what to do, or if I even wanted to," he said. "I spent quite a few nights on the streets, under the bridges. Several times I asked God to take me, but I kept waking up. Since I've been here I've had a complete turnaround."

Most of the guys at the shelter are very nice, he said, and help each other out.

"I'm happy I'm here. I'm happy I've got people who understand, and who are willing to help out when it's necessary," Madsen said.

Madsen has COPD, and gets sick easily, so he's thankful for help he's received from the Beacon with his health.

"You've got no money, no insurance, even the doctor you've been going to all your life says not until I see some money," he said. "Steve sees one of us in need; he reaches into his pocket. Now is that a blessing or is it not?"

"Steve and the staff - you can't ask for better," he added. "The Beacon of Hope is a blessing and it has to stay open."

The Beacon stays open entirely based on donations.

"We don't take any government money," Roe said. "There is no government money out there for shelters anyway."

It's an important time of the year for the shelter's fundraising. Fortunately, one generous donor has provided a $25,000 matching grant.

"We have an anonymous donor that will match donations up to $25,000," Roe said. "Everything people donate will be matched. If someone writes a check for $5,000 it will be $10,000. We find that when people are willing to do that, we have a lot more who want to give.

"What we bring in from Thanksgiving on up to the new year is probably over half of what it takes to survive the year on. So this is a big time of year," Roe said.

 
 

 

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