Expanded services for the homeless becoming a reality

Source:  The Wenatchee World


Lighthouse Ministries has begun work to consolidate many of its homeless programs in one large building on South Columbia Street.

Soon to be housed under one very large roof at 410 S. Columbia St.: The Lighthouse soup kitchen, medical and dental clinic, free food distribution center, church activity center and counseling and pastoral offices.

The religion-based, nonprofit organization has nearly reached its goal to raise about $900,000 to remodel the building, said Kyle Hendrickson, president of the seven-member Lighthouse board of directors. The organization recently applied for a $250,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. If received — and Hendrickson feels pretty confident the grant will be won — the project would have enough funding to complete its first major phase, he said.

We’re making good progress. We should be going full steam ahead from here on out,” Hendrickson said. He said new one-year leases were recently signed for the two buildings that now house the soup kitchen and clinic. He expects both will have moved into the new building by next November before leases have to be renewed. The soup kitchen is at 526 S. Wenatchee Ave. The clinic is at 858 Valley Mall Parkway in East Wenatchee.

Interior demolition is well along and remodel work — new floors, walls and all electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems — will start soon. The three-level, the 33,000-square-foot building was built in the early 1900s and was the home for Watson Distributing, a wholesale restaurant supply business. Before that, it was a fruit warehouse.

Large banners hang on the bare wood walls to give work site visitors a preview of what will go where. The clinic entrance will be on the Columbia Street side of the building. The 5,500-square-foot clinic space will have three medical exam rooms and two dental rooms, offices, supply room and restrooms.

The soup kitchen will occupy the other half of the 11,000-square-foot main floor. The new space will triple the size of the present soup kitchen, which offers free breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. And it’s full meals, not just soup. The present kitchen site is busting at the seams, said Shawn Arington, Lighthouse executive director.

We served 122 meals in 20 minutes one day last week,” said Arington. A recent week of cold weather brought long lines of homeless and needy to the kitchen. He said numbers of people coming for meals has increased every year since it opened in 2010.

The 11,000-square-foot basement will become a food storage and distribution center. Another section will be a garage to repair vehicles and store furniture for graduates of the ministry’s two transitional housing centers. Lighthouse volunteers collect hundreds of pounds of food from local stores and businesses to distribute to needy families. The distribution center will go into operation this year, but a drive-in cold storage area will come later after a phase two funding drive, Arington said. 

Having a food storage on site will be wonderful,” he said. The collected food is also used in the soup kitchen to provide free daily meals.

The building’s upper level is already being used for offices and for counseling services. Most of the floor will be used for church activities, music events, a youth ministry and pastoral care. The building and its operations could also be available as an emergency center for a valley wide crisis such as a wildfire, he said.

The second phase will also raise funds to buy the Watson building. It’s now being leased from Lighthouse founder Bob Rogers who bought the building with the intent of expanding the organization. Cost of the lease is $1 for the first year and then $2,800 a month after that, Hendrickson said. That’s the cost the organization now pays to lease the two buildings that house the soup kitchen and clinic. The organization has a nine-year option to purchase the building from Rogers for what he paid, $367,000.

Once we own the building, we can start pouring more money into our programs,” Hendrickson said.

The more than $600,000 already raised for building renovation came from donations from hundreds of private individuals and businesses. Stemilt Growers offered $150,000 in matching funds. Bethlehem Construction gave $25,000. Graybeal Signs pledged $28,000 in services. The organization has won several grants from various trusts, but receives no government funds, Hendrickson said.

Lighthouse also operates three other ministries that will not move from their present locations on properties owned by the organization:

<> Gospel House, an emergency overnight shelter for homeless men, women and children.

<> Grace House, transitional housing for women and children.

<> Mission House, a men’s group home.