Note: This story appears in the Sunday, Oct. 6 newspaper on Page A3.
Good Works, an Athens-based nonprofit that provides assistance and temporary housing to people who are homeless, hosted a recent ground-breaking ceremony to announce the construction of its newest shelter.
The new project, dubbed Sign of Hope, will be built on Athens’ west side near the organization’s main shelter, the Timothy House.
Sign of Hope will allow Good Works to provide shelter to people with disabilities that prevent them from using stairs, as well as providing extra occupancy when the Timothy House is full, according to Good Works’ founder and executive director Keith Wasserman.
“We have seen this kind of situation for many years and we have been grieved,” he said at the Sept. 28 ceremony. “Today begins a new era.”
The build has been made possible in large part due to a donation of $100,000 from the Athens Marathon, which will account for about half of the estimated construction cost. It was the largest single donation ever received by Good Works or given by the Athens Marathon.
“We’ve been saving up for quite a while,” said Lisa Simons of the Athens Marathon Committee. “When we first started, we said we were going to give $50,000 and then the price (of the project) kept going up as they were waiting for more donations. So, we got to the point where we could give $100,000.”
Simons praised Wasserman and his wife, Darlene, for “giving back to the community for so many years.”
Good Works had also raised about $85,000 in donations from individuals and groups including Hocking Valley Bank, The O’Bleness Foundation and several local churches, leaving the organization only $15,000 away from its fundraising goal at the time of the ground-breaking.
While construction is already underway, Wasserman was not able to give a definitive timeline for the project’s completion because much of the work will be done by volunteers and will be dependent on their availability. However, he estimated that it would take about two years.
Wasserman first started Good Works in 1981 as a senior at Ohio University where, in conjunction with a degree in mental health, he converted the basement of his Elliot Street home into a two-bedroom apartment which he used to shelter displaced people.
In 1984, Good Works moved to the Timothy House which today welcomes as many as 15 people at a time. Sign of Hope will add space for two more unrelated residents as well as a space upstairs for a live-in staff member, something that has not been possible at the Timothy House.
“It will be good to have another presence in the neighborhood,” said Wasserman, who moved into a nearby house with his wife in 2013. He’s offered his space in his home for those the Timothy House have had to turn away due to lack of space.
While one of Wasserman’s core principles has always been to show his guests as much kindness and respect as possible, he is also mindful of his neighbors and has created certain rules for people staying at the Timothy House — such as implementing a curfew.
“My neighbors are important to me and they are not less important than the people who are staying in this house,” he said.