Hope House says goodbye to an icon and braces for big changes
Ottawa’s Hope House is undergoing two big changes at the end of 2021, and both are bittersweet in their own way: Earlier this fall, longtime director and coordinator Mary Lois Yates announced her retirement, and in less time. month, Hope House will move to a new location after more than 30 years on Walnut Street.
Yates has been a part of Hope House since its inception in 1990. According to Acting Director Michelle Graf, the churches of the Ottawa Ministerial Association have decided the town needs a place for those who may need food and clothing. They used an old church as their headquarters and named the organization Hope House in honor of the feeling they wanted to bring to the community. Today, Hope House provides those in need of Franklin County with everything from gasoline coupons to rent and utility assistance. Pretty much everything at Hope House is either donated or funded by donations, Graf says. “We are all supported by the community. Sometimes we get a grant from Harvesters, but we’re all really community supported through the different churches and individuals in Ottawa, so it’s really community service.
The Franklin County community has always been extremely supportive of Hope House, Grad said, and she suspects this is in part due to the charming nature of Mary Lois Yates. “Most everyone in the community, when they think of Hope House, they think of Mary Lois Yates. I think the legacy she left is that Hope House will always stay true to its mission of helping everyone in the world. Franklin County that needs help. And she’s always made sure that was our goal and doing it with passion. ” One of Yates’ talents was reassuring customers, many of whom felt embarrassed to ask for help. “It’s hard for people to admit that they need help, and [Yates] greeted clients, knew them by name, knew their families …
While everyone is sad to see her go, Graf is sure Mary Lois Yates will remain involved with Hope House in one way or another in the future. His departure marks the start of a new era for Hope House, with a new location. With funds from a donation from former State Senator Wint Winter and his wife Nancy, Hope House was able to purchase a building at 205 W. 17th Street and worked on its renovation in recent months. The new building is expected to be operational by November 1, and a public open house is scheduled for October 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Once everything is installed in the new building, Hope House plans to add showers to the new facility with a grant from the Ottawa Elks Foundation.
After more than 30 years, there is still a need for places like Hope House in Franklin County, and Hope House will be there for as long as people need it, Graf said. Although it was started by a group of churches, clients of Hope House do not need to be Christians or belong to any religion to receive its services. But for some Hope House employees, they believe their work is part of a higher calling. “There is a lot of poverty in Franklin County, and we feel like we’re doing God’s work,” Graf said. “We also believe that you can’t say ‘God loves you, come home hungry’ or ‘come home with no clothes to wear.’ It’s not just about saying ‘Hey God loves us all.’ , like, yes, he does, and he wants us, as a community, to show that love in a tangible way. “
Hope House services are available to all residents of Franklin County, no questions asked. For more information, visit hopehouseottawa.org.