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PCM begins final developments of Fresh Start Village

BY KAYLAN THOMPSON kthompson@paducahsun.com

W

ith help from the Ray and Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust alongside community-driven fundraising, Paducah Cooperative Ministry's shelter for homeless women and children, Fresh Start Village, is expected to be fully realized within a year.

This spring, the charitable trust offered to provide a matching grant to all contributions received through Dec. 15, up to $100,000.

Pairing the match with community donations, PCM hopes to bring in $200,000 for the Fresh Start Village Fund by the December date. So far, it has raised about $50,000 to apply toward the matching grant.

"God's timing is always perfect, we just had to be patient," Heidi Suhrheinrich, the ministry's executive director, said.

"You know God's involved when things unfold in just the right way," she added. "If you're hitting a wall and it's just not working, it's probably not the right time or the right project, but when things happen like this matching gift just as we're wondering how we're going to get it finished, you know it's meant to be."

Money raised will fuel construction for the last two of six houses for the village, bringing to life the developments proposed years ago. The ministry plans to break ground next spring for the remaining two houses, one for single women and the other for women and children.

"It's important to realize that any woman or child that doesn't have a safe place to sleep at night is very much at risk," Suhrheinrich said.

"We want to make sure that no one's in a situation where they don't have a safe place to sleep at night, so this is giving us the capacity to help more women and not send them to a community where they don't know anyone. That's not the best solution. We want to keep them here, this is their community."

As initially envisioned in 2014, the completed village will include six four-bedroom houses lining a courtyard, capped by an administrative building providing classrooms, counseling spaces and staff offices.

The administrative building will also provide space for two PCM staff members to live on-site, an added benefit Suhrheinrich said is "the strength of our program here."

With funds already raised for the construction of the administrative building, crews broke ground on that phase of the project in the middle of August.

With a foundation poured and plumbing installed, Suhrheinrich said the building "is coming along nicely and should be finished by Thanksgiving."

To date, nearly $2 million has been poured into the Fresh Start Village Fund.

Ever since the first four village homes opened doors to residents in November 2015, around 150 individuals have been housed and served at the site. Currently, the shelter is home to 14 women and 13 children.

"The children can start being a kid again and not worry about adult issues," Suhrheinrich said. "They can focus on homework, playing outside. We offer a very soft and important spot for kids who are in a situation where they're getting a start in life that's more difficult than we would like them to have."

The need for the two final houses is pressing, she added, as the shelter is currently operating at max capacity.

When space is unavailable, as it is now, the ministry must search for other places to send women and children who are in dangerous living situations. Oftentimes, they're sent to a shelter in a larger city like Bowling Green, Louisville or Nashville.

"There's such a sense of urgency for this," Suhrheinrich said. "We're getting phone calls every day from mothers with children who just have nowhere to go. We try never to turn anyone away that's in a dangerous situation, but there's nothing else in this community, so we're going to keep fundraising our little hearts out."

With a giving community like Paducah, Suhrheinrich added that fundraising is always rewarding for all parties involved: the grantors, community donors and the receiving organization.

"They'll be able to see what we're doing with it, and it's so exciting to bring people out and say, 'Gotta show you what we did with your money,'" she said.

"They can see it when it's finished and have a legacy. Every person in this community's important and valued, and I think our community here supports that thought, that every life is important."

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