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Metropolis shelter receives $8,000

By JASON MORROW jmorrow@paducahsun.com

METROPOLIS, Ill. -- When abused women and children in Massac County need a safe place to go, there aren't a lot of options. One place they can turn to is Guardian Family Services in Metropolis, but limited funding and water problems in the basement have threatened the integrity of the building.

"Right now we can't use the basement because of the water," said Rita Gower, program director for the nonprofit which provides shelter and services to victims of domestic violence. "The damage is pretty bad."

With up to 16 individuals in the shelter at any given moment, the basement would normally provide a laundry room, a food pantry and storage. Gower and some of the women in the shelter discovered the problem was an abandoned well under the building. Shelter staff was able to fill the well, but water still seeps in and has created a mold problem.

Gower said the estimate to fix the basement would be around $10,000. That's where the Shadow Angel Foundation came in to help.

The charity organization, created by local meteorologist Beau Dodson, contacted Gower and agreed to a matching fund donation. Initially, Dodson agreed to match up to $5,000, but when Gower raised more than $8,000 through various fundraisers, Dodson upped the matching funds.

"We like to supplement tangible projects," Dodson said. "This project fit the bill, and now Guardian Family Services has more than $16,000 toward repairs in the building."

The shelter can sleep up to 16 individuals at a time, and even offers walk-in services, which helps about 50 people per month.

Jeannine Woods, executive director of Guardian Family Services, said she was glad Dodson thought enough of the program to include them in his charitable giving.

"As a result of this generosity, there are women and children who are now going to have an even more comfortable and secure place to heal when they come here from the trauma they have experienced," she said.

The Shadow Angel Foundation started in 2003 after tornadoes ripped through the tri-county area. The foundation sent supplies for families affected by the disaster, and teddy bears to every Head Start, pre-school and first and second grade student in the counties hit hardest in southern Illinois.

Gower said it was about Christmastime when Dodson first approached her about raising the money, and that it was like a Christmas present for the shelter.

"This was a godsend," she said. "It couldn't have come at a better time."

Gower said getting the basement fixed will help the shelter financially over a long period of time, since everything had to be moved to three storage buildings. Each of the buildings had a monthly cost that has become a burden on the shelter. However, she said people in Massac County have always stepped up to help.

"We've been very blessed because we have churches that give to us monthly, if not financially then in goods," Gower said. "We can usually put a need out there and it's met."

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