FORT MADISON – The house that offers temporary refuge for the homeless took a lot of abuse by a lot of people, but now it is on the mend.
The Emma Cornelius Hospitality House was temporarily closed on Feb. 14 for cleaning and a management change, and that action began recently.
Board Vice President Bill Willis said after an inspection of the facility, the board was embarrassed.
“The place got out of control,” Willis said recently. “We have to empty it, clean it, and scrub it to get our home back and that’s what we are doing today.”
Everything that was dirty, damaged and unusable was removed from the house. Cleaning would take only one day, he said.
“We have 30 volunteers helping us today,” Willis said. “They are coming from the board, church people, Fort Madison High School students and volunteers. The word’s out. We need to clean the place.”
Another work day will be held to paint the walls and ceilings some time near the end of April.
“We need to have this shelter opened quickly,” Willis said. “This is the only homeless shelter in the (Fort Madison) area. We were taking care of up to 300 people a year. That’s how it got out of control.”
The shelter can help six to eight people a day, and each person is allowed to stay three to five nights.
The cost to run the house annually is enormous.
“It costs about $60,000 a year,” Willis said. “Most of the needed funds comes from grants and the United Way.”
Private donations also are made.
“Last year was the best year for private donations,” Willis said. “The community is very supportive of the effort and we think we have let them down. But we have a strong board and we’re going to be back.”
Dolly Stancil of Fort Madison is a board member for the Emma Cornelius House and works with Community Action. According to Stancil, the next work day will be used to hone in on finer details.
“After today we will come back and work on finishing touches like painting and repairs and drapes,” Stancil said. “We do have a big crew today, so it will make the job easier.”
Diana Bartlett of Fort Madison, is a member of the Pottowama Circle of Kings Daughters.
“We are donating money to help this place get back on its feet,” Bartlett said.
Recently, the Kings Daughters donated $500 that has already been ear-marked to purchase new mattresses for the house. Bartlett said her organization has been a constant contributor to the Emma Cornelius House.
Alex Hayes, a Fort Madison High School senior, made his way to the Emma Cornelius House to help the organization.
“I wanted to help with the cleanup,” Hayes said. “I just want to help make things better.”
Trenten Hunter, a sophomore at FMHS, learned about the cleanup while at school.
“Coach gave us an email and I thought it would be a good way to give to the community,” Hunter said.
Willis said he hopes the Emma Cornelius House will be able to serve the community again by the end of April.