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Abraham Connection hosts open house

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Dwain Bush and other volunteers from the Delta United Methodist men's group painted trim at the homeless shelter Monday night.

Abraham Connection is just a few days, and a few dollars, short of completing the new permanent homeless shelter at 480 Silver Street in Delta.

A community open house is planned this Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m.

Volunteers were putting finishing touches on the building early this week, painting the trim on the doors to the office and conference rooms, wiping down the counters hin the spacious kitchen and arranging furniture in the common area.

There are three spacious sleeping areas -- the largest for men, a medium-sized room for women and the third for families with children. The men's and women's dorms are essentially large spaces where mattresses can be laid down, piled up and arranged however guests desire. Space is a bit more defined in the family room, where shelves contain books and toys for the little ones. Bryce Simler, a homeschooled student from Cedaredge, made collecting books and toys an Eagle project -- just one of many examples of how the community has supported the Abraham Connection since the decision was made to proceed with construction.

In all three rooms, freshly-laundered blankets, pillows, sheets and towels are neatly stored on shelves.

The men's and women's bathrooms are each handicap accessible and have two showers, another convenience for guests who were previously provided with passes to shower at the recreation center. The bathrooms also contain coin-operated washers and dryers; currently all the towels and bed linens are laundered offsite by volunteers.

The common area includes couches and chairs for sitting, reading or watching movies, and also serves as the dining room with tables and chairs.

Cheryl Oeltjenbruns, Abraham Connection board

president, said delivery of a large stove was expected Tuesday, to complete the commercial kitchen. Final inspection and a certificate of occupancy will hopefully fall into place just in time for moving day on Saturday. At that time, the pots, pans, utensils and dinnerware will be moved from the basement of the Delta United Methodist Church. All meal preparation will take place on site in the shelter's commercial kitchen, Oeltjenbruns said.

Previously guests were required to leave the basement shelter early in the morning and seek breakfast elsewhere, often at one of several churches that took turns providing an early morning meal. Now breakfast will be served at the shelter, but the Abraham Connection will still be relying on its dedicated corps of volunteers to provide breakfast and dinner. The shelter is fortunate to have so much help, some volunteers provide a meal just once a month.

In the new facility, guests won't have to leave until 7:30 or 8 a.m., Oeltjenbruns said. On the way out the door, they'll be handed a snack bag with a granola bar and fruit. When they return at the end of the day, they'll have access to an anteroom where they can wait for the shelter to open, out of the cold and snow.

The need for volunteers continues, Oeltjenbruns said. The board is especially in need of an individual who can be on hand for intake from 6 to 8 p.m. several nights a week.

Oeltjenbruns said it takes 15 volunteers to provide one night of shelter, from intake to meals to laundry. The nonprofit has just one paid staff member, a part-time employee who covers the midnight to 6 a.m. shift four nights a week. Eventually, the homeless shelter will need a paid administrator, but until the building is fully paid for, that's not in the budget, despite a recent $10,000 operating grant from the Anschutz Foundation.

When the shelter opens, hopefully on Saturday, Dec. 5, there will still be some work to be done on landscaping and the parking lot, but Oeltjenbruns said the Abraham Connection is lacking only about $5,000 for total completion. Otherwise, the project has been fully funded through grants, community donations and in-kind support from the city and county.

In addition to monetary contributions the homeless shelter welcomes donations of office supplies (particularly copy paper), pantry staples, cleaning supplies, paper towel and toilet paper.

Oeltjenbruns expressed gratitude to the Delta United Methodist Church for continuing to house the homeless, but will be grateful when everyone is under one roof. Trying to operate in the church basement while finishing up the building has been "completely overwhelming," she said. Already, at the beginning of its sixth season, the shelter has been averaging 10 to 15 guests a night.

"We hit 1,133 bed nights last year, and it's already looking like we'll exceed that number this winter," Oeltjenbruns said.

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