Humanity House gets new location


Local News

June 8, 2018 - 7:55 PM

At upper left, the front office of the new Humanity House building at 110 East St. also serves as a classroom for programs like Bridges Out of Poverty and American Sign Language classes.

Tracy Keagle still has big plans for Humanity House’s new location, despite challenges that cropped up with the recent move.

Even with the work required to get the building up and running, Humanity House’s many assistance programs haven’t slowed, Keagle said. She’s been spending most of her time lately in the former Elk Creek Community Garden, which Humanity House took over this year.

“Getting the garden going has been a big deal. I’ve been working 12-15 hours a day there,” Keagle said.

It hasn’t left much time to focus on the new building at 110 East St., but there’s been significant progress on the facility since staff moved in April.

The larger facility allows the organization to better serve more people. There’s space for classes and a large food pantry. Soon, two industrial-size washers and two dryers will be installed to help clients with laundry needs. Eventually, a kitchen will allow Humanity House to teach cooking and food preservation classes and to provide meals for those in need.

“Someone who is homeless and comes in, we can cook them something and sit and chat to find out what’s going on in their life,” Keagle said.

The office and classroom area is complete, featuring brick walls on two sides to reflect the building’s historic charm. In adjoining rooms, giant chalkboards advertise classes and provide important information to clients.

Construction continues on the west side to accommodate a laundry area, kitchen and food pantry.

Most of the work and furniture have been donated by volunteers, local businesses and others. Nic Lohman donated desks and office supplies. Allen Community College donated tables and chairs for classes. Nick Anderson and Gary Stout donated plumbing work. Those are just a few of the many donations that made the building possible, Keagle said.

But challenges remain.

The kitchen likely will be the biggest hurdle. City code restrictions require it to have a fire suppression system and a ventless hood for the stove. Those costs are estimated at $11,600, Keagle said.

And the food pantry, freezer and refrigerator are nearly bare. With all of the work for the building and programs, Humanity House hasn’t been able to organize as many fundraisers, Keagle said. That means there isn’t much money to buy food.

A recent food drive through the Post Office stocked the shelves, but most of it was gone within a week and a half. Also, a man with no ties to Allen County donated $6,000 in food in cooperation with G&W Foods. Those funds are allotted to purchase food on a weekly basis over nine months.

Even more dire is the organization’s utility assistance program. The money just isn’t there to help people pay for utilities, Keagle said. Struggling clients are urged to come to the shelter for food so they can save their grocery money for utilities.

THE organization also offers American Sign Language classes at 7:30 p.m. each Thursday and hosts the Bridges Out of Poverty program and other classes on a recurring basis. Fresh, free produce is distributed at 6 p.m. each Friday at the smaller community garden on the downtown square. A new book club, The Literati, meets at the facility the last Friday of each month to discuss books that inspire and move people to action.

On Thursday, Humanity House plans to host a Family Fun Safety Night to discuss firework safety.

More programs are on the horizon. Keagle wants to focus more attention on efforts to register people to vote, with an event hosted by Kansas Appleseed June

18. She’s also trying to figure out the best way to schedule a “Laundry Love” event to allow people to wash and dry their laundry after the machines are installed at Humanity House.