“I lost my soul,” he said. “All I cared about was the next high.”
Within months, Walter lost two homes, and his children were placed in foster care. He slept in doorways. He shoplifted and sold the goods to pay for drugs and alcohol. When he couldn’t feed his addiction any longer, he said he cried, “Please, God, give me a way out of this!”
He then found Refuge of Hope. After 15 months of physical and spiritual support at the agency, a sober and joyful Walter now has his own apartment and job — and spends his spare time doting on his red-haired grandson.
“Refuge of Hope housed me, made me accountable and showed me that people cared,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be alive today.”
Refuge of Hope (ROH) is Stark County’s only rescue mission, said Duane Wykoff, executive director. A Christian-based organization in downtown Canton, ROH provides free hot meals six times per week to men, women and children and free emergency and transitional housing for up to 34 men per night.
“While, thankfully, there are numerous emergency shelters in Stark County for women and children, ROH is one of only two men’s emergency shelters in Stark County,” Wykoff said, noting that Refuge of Hope serves the most meals per week and per year than any other such organization in Stark County.
“The impact of poverty, hunger and homelessness in the local community has been felt at ROH. Area men, women and children who never expected to be indigent now find themselves in the devastating position of wondering where the next meal is coming from or if there will be a safe place to sleep at night,” he said.
In 2011, for the third consecutive year, more meals were served through August at ROH than for the entire previous year, Wykoff said.
The number of meals served in the last four years is staggering: 14,500 in 2008; 21,500 in 2009; 36,355 in 2010; and 46,331 meals in 2011.
“To date in 2012, ROH is on pace currently to serve over 60,000 meals this year,” said Wykoff.
The agency’s vision is to be a beacon of hope for those in the community who are struggling.
“ROH is regularly supported by area churches representing many different denominations as well as by individuals, businesses and other civic minded organizations. From the beginning, ROH has been dedicated to providing help and hope to those in need in time of crisis,” Wykoff said.
Refuge of Hope’s current general operating expenses are more than $1,200 per day. As such, the organization has started an initiative called Tend My Sheep, asking individuals, families, businesses, churches and civic organizations to partner with it to feed, shelter and provide hope for the less-fortunate by sponsoring a day of operating expenses.
REFUGE OF HOPE
WHO: Refuge of Hope, 405 Third St. NE, Canton.
WHAT: Nonprofit agency that provides transitional shelter to homeless men and food to men, women and children.
BOARD MEMBERS: Terry Seeberger, partner in litigation and employment at Stark & Knoll, president; Marybeth Hinds, owner, Restaurant & Business Management, vice president; Lois Ferrel, retired human resource administrator, treasurer; Sonja White, public affairs coordinator, secretary; Mickey Lawver, Hopkins Lawver Funeral Homes; and Al Buxton, president and co-founder, Buxton Corp.
PROCEEDS: Benefits programming.
DONATIONS: Send to Refuge of Hope, 405 Third St. NE, Canton, OH 44702.