LIMA — A safe haven, a place of protection, a loving home. These are some words that describe the atmosphere and the environment of Lima’s Samaritan House, a shelter for homeless and abused children and women. And the house has acted as a safe haven to the Lima community for 25 years this Wednesday.
Samaritan House will be holding its 25th anniversary celebration from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the City Club in downtown Lima. Marilyn Cipollone, director of Samaritan House, said this year’s celebration will be a little different than in the past, with a newer venue and all new entertainment. Tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased through Samaritan House.
“Three years ago, we changed the venue and before that we would celebrate our anniversary in the Knights of Columbus and have a dinner and it’d be like $40 a ticket and people would come, out of obligation mostly, but it was never really a fun thing,” Cipollone said. “So we wanted to think of something different and we were at Panera Bread and talking with the gentleman there and he had mentioned for some kind of function where they had dueling pianos and we got a hold of the guy and we contracted him to come.”
But this year the dueling pianos won’t be the only entertainment. There will also be a silent auction, Cipollone said, of prizes that have been donated. She said they have all kinds of donations, from a vacation in the mountains to a homemade fudge package. Appetizers will also be served, she said.
“It’s so much fun and people donate all these silent auction prizes,” Cipollone said, smiling. “We have everything from a trip in the Smokies to fudge. Some things that you don’t think will go, they go first.”
Though homelessness and abuse is never something to celebrate, Cipollone said, the celebration is for the services the community has provided for these women and children and the initiative the women have taken to get their lives back on track.
Fore information on the event, visit their newly renovated website, samaritanhouselima.com.
What Samaritan House does
And they sure have a lot to celebrate. Cipollone said the house took in 59 women and children from the community just last month, plus they have an overnight program where single women may come in after 6 p.m., get a bed roll, eat dinner and help clean up, take a shower, get up in the morning, have breakfast and go on their way that many additional women take advantage of.
“People from every reason you can imagine are homeless. We’ve had women with master’s degrees that maybe have gotten hooked on prescription drugs to crack and made just a horrible mess of their lives or married women with children who never thought they’d be in a situation and then their husband’s job left town and whatever happened,” Cipollone said. “And so they’re here. So this is where you get it together and regroup.”
A staff of nine, including Cipollone, manage the entire house. Brandi Schroeder, assistant director, helps Cipollone in managing the budget and everything else the house needs, including maintenance.
“Brandi was chasing bats out of the house yesterday, trying not to kill them,” Cipollone said, laughing. “I mean it’s just crazy around here sometimes.”
The house is on a tight budget, Cipollone said, relying on a lot of donations for food and state funding. But they never compromise the quality of service for their women, she said.
“We struggle financially, we’re not funded by United Way,” she said. “When you depend on state funding, which is about half of our funding, we really run this on a very, very tight budget. We are so frugal. I mean people laugh at us, we’re so frugal. Sticky notes, they’re such a luxury. We cut up scrap paper. We do anything we can to save money, but without sacrificing the quality of service.
“I mean a lot of time, we just make our wish list, and we pray. At least I pray, about donations,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said a lot of people will come forward with individual donations and donate because they never were in the situations these women are in. They are so thankful, she said, for all the donations and the volunteers that give their time to the house.
The staff offers daily programming for the women, including parenting classes and drug and alcohol classes. They require the women who stay there find work, even if it’s temporary, and they require them to save 80 percent of their earnings.
“It’s a structured environment, there are rules. Sometimes it’s the first structure they’ve ever had,” Cipollone said. “It’s not a jail, it’s not a hotel. We’re here to get them through this period and so they can be independent.”
History of the house
The house originally was a convent for St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Cipollone said. And the thought of a women and children’s shelter came from the church’s then-pastor, the Rev. J. Norbert Howe. He originally took in one woman who was being abused and from there, the program took off.
“Samaritan House in itself just started with a pastor in a church taking in a woman who was being abused and then someone else heard about it and then it just snowballed and he didn’t have anywhere else to put everyone,” she said.
Howe is being honored at the anniversary celebration for all his efforts, she said.
“I love him. He is so neat. Every now and again, he’ll come and they’ll call me from up front and say that Father Howe is here and I go up front and hug him,” she said. “It used to be if I had a problem, I’d just run over to him. I just miss him so much.”
The front of the house is the part that used to the be the convent, but the back of the house, Team Leader Leora Steele, said came from a house on North West Street in Lima.
“They were taking it down, so we said we wanted it,” she said.
The house now has 19 bedrooms with 38 beds plus cribs and rollaway beds, Steele said.
All rooms are used to serve the children and women of the community, with single, double and triple rooms.
“I mean you just if you’re in this business, you’re not in it for the money. You have to care. You have to really care. Sometimes it just is on your heart but we do what we can,” Cipollone said.