EMPIRE — The Nancy Devereux Center is turning 40 years old this year and to celebrate is welcoming the public to an open house to learn more about how it helps the homeless.
On Friday, Dec. 13, from 4-8 p.m. on 1200 Newmark Ave., the Devereux Center is holding a raffle and handing out prizes, as well as spreading information on its services.
“We want to communicate with the community what we do, why we do it and how they can get involved,” said Tara Johnson, the center’s director. “We’ve added some services and changed some of our policies that people may not know about.”
Some of those policy changes include not just handing out items like sleeping bags, backpacks, tarps, state identification, or birth certificates to those in need. Instead, they will be handed out in exchange for volunteer work at the center.
“We don’t have a requirement for handing out clothing or blankets though,” Johnson said. “Anybody can have those if they are in need, and we only ask for people to volunteer as long as they are physically able.”
The change on this policy came about after the center received complaints that tarps, sleeping bags and backpacks were being littered in the woods.
“It’s not that our humanitarian ideas have changed, but we want to make sure people understand the value of those more costly commodities as well,” Johnson said. “This way, hopefully, people take care of (the items) a little more because they had to earn it.”
In addition to educating the public on these policy changes, the center is also asking for people to give up something small once a week and donate the money instead. That money would pay for feeding someone breakfast or lunch. Johnson said the center estimates it costs $1.25 to serve breakfast per client and $1.50 to serve lunch.
“If someone gave up a blended mocha once a week, which is a $5 drink, that’d be almost $20 a month,” Johnson said. “It takes $22.50 to pay for one client to have breakfast and entire month and $27 a month for lunch.”
Since the Devereux Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, and hasn’t had an open house for several years, Johnson has worked on putting this event together for “a while,” she said.
“At this open house, I hope people will see we want to be good neighbors and want our clients to be good neighbors,” Johnson said. “Though our community standards aren’t new, we have written them up and when new clients sign in they agree to follow those standards. One of them is to be a good neighbor.”
Johnson plans on letting the community know at the Friday event that if there is a problem with local homeless to get their name or description and let her know so she can talk with that individual.
“That’s part of what we want to do, which is to help our clients understand they have an obligation to be a community member too,” she said.
Donations are being accepted, including canned food, hygiene products, feminine items and razors. Other items are being collected as the center gets holiday bags together to hand out to homeless clients at its annual Christmas party on Dec. 20. Items for those bags are intended to be useful for people living outside. Items can include flashlights and military-grade can openers.
As for raffle prizes at the Friday open house, Johnson said it is worth it for people to stop by even for 10 to 20 minutes. The prizes have been donated by many local businesses, including 7 Devils Brewing Co., Little Italy and Checkerberry’s.
“We have two beautiful several-hundred-dollar door prizes,” Johnson said. “It could be your lucky Friday the 13th.”