PICKENS COUNTY - MARYS House officials are hitting the road in search of giving for their clientele, abused women and families.
The economic downturn has been difficult on the five-year-old shelter that uses a faith-based approach to get women and their children out of abusive relationships and back on their feet with jobs or connections with sustaining family members.
The funding answer, according the MARYS House Director Lisa Smith, is to consistently remind area churches and the community in general of the organization’s purpose.
Despite dipping funding and dwindling reserves, Smith says, “I choose to see this as an opportunity.”
Five years ago the organization was established with enough funding to erect the shelter and have it operate debt free, Smith said.
“Then the recession hit. We were operating off of reserves and now that is gone,” she said.
The opportunity comes in getting out and reminding people of the shelter’s existence, mission and needs.
Ministry Alliance for Recovering your Safety was a network of mostly churches established to provide sustained funding for MARYS House.
Smith is going back to churches throughout Pickens County reminding them of the needs. “People forget,” Smith said. Other organizations get out and ask for help for the people they serve, the hungry, the homeless.
“We are trying to get 80 churches to commit $200 per month each. If they are a church that can’t do that much, then may they can combine with another church to get to the,” she said.
Meeting that goal will provide $192,000 annually. Currently the organization operates on $200,000 annually.
“We have cut what we can,” Smith said. Originally the shelter was operating on $300,000. That has been cut by a third.
The cuts were accomplished by things like staff paying for their own training and travel expenses. Volunteers have contributed food, Smith said.
Payroll amounts to $120,000 of the $200,000 annual budget. “We are required to staff the shelter 24/7,” Smith said. Insurance alone is $12,000.
The initial mission is to serve women and their families under a faith based approach. That eliminates viability of seeking State and Federal funding, Smith said.
“We are a Christian organization. We are showing Christ’s love., she said.
The faith-based mission goes beyond just showing Christ love.
Public funding from state and federal sources typically do not allow a shelter to house older male children, Smith said.
“We have family suites and can keep older boys (because of private funding sources.)” she said.
Otherwise the child would have to go to foster care.
“Women are much more likely to be successful in leaving if they can take their children Otherwise they generally return to the (abusive) situation,” she said.
Public funding also requires turn over to new clients after six weeks.
“It takes longer than that,” Smith said. “If you come in here without a job or money or a car, it takes some time for you to get on your feet. We don’t want to just have a woman here for a couple of weeks and send them back out without being on their feet. They’ll just go back (to the abuse).
In addition to seeking church funding, Smith says the shelter is doing other things to reach the community at large for support.
The website Maryshouse.com has a link for donations.
“We have made that easier to do,” Smith said. “You can set up an automatic draft.”