by Shara JJ Cooper on Friday May 17 2013
Three Grand Forks organizations have found a way to come together and pool their resources by forming the Multi-Agency Accommodation Project (MAAP).
Habitat for Humanity, Whispers of Hope and The Boundary Emergency and Transitional Housing Society (BETHS) are leasing 7212 Riverside Drive from the City of Grand Forks.
The project has been in the works for at least six months and is unique to Grand Forks.
“We are thinking fairly outside the box here,” said Irene Friesen, a Habitat board member, noting it’s necessary to come up with new ideas in a small community that has limited resources.
MAAP members will keep their original, internal structures but will band together to help the community’s low-income people.
Since the project started to pick up momentum, they have been receiving some support from local corporations. On May 16, International Forest Products (Interfor) announced they, along with Arrow Transportation Systems, would be donating $20,000 for a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
The ReStore will be located in the leased property on Riverside Drive along with the BETHS seasonal shelter and Whispers of Hope soup kitchen and thrift store.
MAAP applied to lease the building from the City of Grand Forks earlier this year and their bid was accepted at the May 6 city council meeting.
The ReStore will sell donated construction items to the public.
“It’s sort of like a building supply thrift store,” said Friesen.
Items can be donated straight from home renovation projects but Friesen said she wouldn’t be surprised if they also get excess items from the Reuse It centre at the landfill and the local thrift store.
Whispers of Hope will close their soup kitchen and thrift store doors at their current location and reopen on Riverside Drive as part of the new project.
Whispers coordinator Mike Robb is eagerly anticipating the move. He feels it will help people become more awareness of the organization, which feeds about 250 meals a week from Monday to Friday and occasionally on Saturdays.
“What I want, what I have always wanted, is for people to realize that no one has to go hungry in Grand Forks,” said Robb, who feels people have the wrong idea about Whispers of Hope. “A lot of people think that all we deal with is druggies. Fifteen to 20 of the people I feed are mentally challenged. We also have old age pensioners. These people, whoever they are, need help.”
Robb has been working with Whispers for about 10 years but is leaving at the end of the summer. He’s going to stay long enough to make sure there is a smooth transition to the new location.
“I’m going to help set the kitchen and eating area up, also the part where they have the thrift store,” he said.
The new facility won’t be open later this year. Friesen said they are working on it in phases and the first phase should be finished Nov 1.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization, and like most non-profits, they could use a little extra help. People can make monetary donations, donate their time and services, or supplies to the ReStore. Friesen would also like more board members to step forward, although they have to be the right fit.
“We do want people to commit to three years on the board,” she said. “We have monthly meetings and there is some involvement in other committees. Those are our three criteria.”
Whispers is also looking for help from the community. They need to hire a new coordinator, which is a paying position, and they are always looking for food or monetary donations as well as volunteers. Robb says he can take expired food and he always has potatoes and onions to give away to those in need.