Renovated shelter credited to community's generosity

Apr. 15, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Thanks to donations from Lee County churches, individuals and the local Zurn Industries plant, Outreach Mission of Sanford was able to show off its improved women's shelter at the group's annual meeting recently.

Outreach Mission is an independent nonprofit that operates one shelter for women and children, and another for men, in east Sanford. Earl Murphy, the group's president, said that in the last year, the group has been able to make numerous repairs and updates to its women's shelter, including fresh paint, all new bathroom and sink fixtures from Zurn, and new carpet, tile or linoleum on all the floors — which were touted at the group's meeting last week.

Murphy said Outreach Mission relies on grants and the generosity of locals to keep the shelters running, and that it manages to do so on a budget of just $28,000 a year and an all-volunteer staff. But its always looking for more volunteers and funding, he said, to keep up current services and possibly even expand to be more proactive.

"We provide them shelter — a safe place to stay — and a morning and an evening meal," Murphy said. "I wish we could do more as far as equipping them for job hunting and helping them get employed."

Outreach Mission Treasurer Ava Coley said the group gets money from many sources but is nevertheless looking at possibly growing its presence in Sanford, where she said many people simply aren't aware of what it does.

"We need to rev it up because the donations were pretty consistent, even through the recession, and were very thankful for that," Coley said. "But the bills for heating and air, utilities, food — everything has gone up. ... Anything unexpected, we have to scramble to cover it."

Murphy said the new bathroom fixtures from Zurn should go a long way toward helping with the water bills at least, which tend to average $300 a month for the two shelters combined. But with the new energy-efficient appliances, he said he thinks those bills might drop.

The next step, he said, is looking to the other building, where some work has already begun.

"We've been able to do quite a bit of work at quite a reasonable expense," Murphy said. "And right now, we're working on getting the men's shelter's inside repainted."

Anyone who wants to get involved with Outreach Mission can call Murphy at (919) 258-6133. People in need of help can contact the men's shelter at (919) 776-8474 or the women and children's center at (919) 774-7112.