Grant will help ARCC emergency shelter provide meals – Park Rapids Enterprise

A new freezer and refrigerator will soon be on their way to the Akeley Regional Community Center (ARCC) Emergency Shelter, thanks to an $8,000 grant from the Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless Foundation.

“While staying at the shelter, victims of intimate partner violence should not and will not have to worry about where their next meal will come from or how they will feed their children,” said a news release from the foundation.

Shelter director Alison Forte said having these extra appliances will let them order more food for residents of the shelter from the food bank once a month at a reduced rate and store it until needed.

The 12-bed shelter has a large double kitchen adjoining the living quarters.

“We’re typically full,” Forte said. “Sometimes we have to help people find shelter in another area. We’re licensed for 22 beds and we will continue growing our capacity as we raise funds.”

While most residents of the shelter qualify for food benefits through the state, Forte explained that by providing food while residents are staying at the shelter they can “roll over” their benefits and use them to stock their pantry once they find housing.

“We encourage residents to save them until they get into housing because we can provide food,” she said. “When you start over, you have to purchase everything from spices to sugar to flour. All those staple items can add up quickly.”

Residents staying at the shelter prepare meals using items from the pantry and the food bank. “Not everyone wants to eat the same thing or at the same time,” she said. “We have a form in the kitchen where people can add their grocery requests, and we do the best we can to accommodate them. We shop locally for fresh produce, milk, things like that. The Nevis Women’s Club donated some shelving for our pantry.”

Finding a place of their own

When a resident of the shelter is ready to transition to a place of their own, they receive a housewarming gift that includes paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

In addition to providing emergency shelter, the ARCC houses a thrift store that raises funds for operating expenses, along with a library and gym that community members, including residents of the shelter, may use.

Forte said the average stay for a shelter resident is 90 days. During that time, they work with staff to make a plan for transitioning to the next step and take action towards those goals.

“One person who stayed at the shelter said she was grateful to have a place to figure out what that next step would be,” she said.

She said the biggest issue with moving out of the shelter is a lack of available housing.

“Some have found housing locally and some have relocated,” she said. “We are a 60-day program, but It’s pretty hard to get into housing within 60 days, so we give extensions.”

Some people end up relocating to find employment.

“It’s also hard to make a living wage around here, and if you find employment it’s hard to afford rent” she said. “Some also choose to relocate for safety reasons.”

Forte said she appreciates the sewing and church groups that keep the shelter supplied with quilts, along with help from other organizations, such as the Nevis Women’s Club.

Food donations needed for the emergency shelter include juice boxes, snack foods and baking supplies such as flour, sugar, chocolate and butterscotch chips, cake and brownie mixes, frosting and pudding mixes.

Bottled water, coffee, diapers, wipes, hygiene products, laundry soap, dishwasher soap, toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex and cleaning supplies are also needed. Call the shelter at 218-652-2600 and staff will give directions on where to bring them.

Volunteers to help with fundraising are also needed.

Checks and gift cards are welcome and may be mailed to ARCC Emergency Shelter, P.O. Box 218, Akeley, MN, 56433.

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