After being closed for nine months, the Ottumwa Community Outreach Ministry is back open to help people in need of food and shelter.
The center closed last fall when they did not have enough money to keep up with operating costs of the building. The center receives no funding from the state or federal government, and relies completely on donations from individuals and businesses. Over the last nine months, the Outreach Ministry has held several fundraisers and collected donations in order to re-open. They are only able to provide limited services at this time, but for people in need of meals and shelter, that is enough.
"We want people to understand that at least now they won't have to sleep in something that could be potentially unsafe - out on the street, under a bridge," said Yvonne Baldwin-Greene, Ministry Director. "That they'll have a safe environment where there will be somebody looking out for them to make sure that nobody's going to hurt them while they're sleeping."
Many do not realize how much it costs to offer up to 20 beds a night, on top of staffing costs and insurance and utilities on the building.
"We're just trying to get people to realize what it is we do, why it costs what it costs, and to break it down into bite-sized bits so that people can afford to help," Baldwin-Greene said.
Those bite-sized bits are incremental donations. $7 will sponsor someone in need for a night with a bed, hygiene products, a shower and laundry. Three extra dollars will buy three meals, and $50 will sponsor someone for a week. Donations can be mailed to the Outreach Ministry at 325 Main Street in Ottumwa, or taken to the center.
The ministry is also looking for volunteers to help the center be able to stay open for longer hours. At the moment, they can only afford to be open from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. during the day for meals, and from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for those needing shelter overnight.
The center is also holding a fundraiser on July 6, where people can order a meal to be delivered to them anywhere in Ottumwa. For $5, you can get a rib sandwich, side and dessert, and all proceeds go back to the Outreach Ministry. During garage sale season, any extra or unsold materials can also be donated to the thrift shop on Main Street, whose proceeds also support the ministry.
Baldwin-Greene said they are hoping to use collected and continued donations to remain open until October, when a sleep out fundraiser will be held. From there, they will see how long they can remain open.
For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit the Ottumwa Community Outreach Ministry's website .