An Inside Look at the O’Fallon Family Shelter

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

The O’Fallon Community Center is a
beautiful location of five acres complete with food pantry, shelter, chapel, playground, multipurpose room, nursery, garden and even a trail in the woods where residents can enjoy “prayer walks” with Captain Paul. On Tuesday, May 15, this community center hosted an open house and tours for the public to view its wonderful facilities. While along one of these tours, I learned that this community center is not simply a shelter, but a home where lost souls can piece their lives back together and revive themselves.

Captain Paul made it apparent that people seeking out the O’Fallon Community Center are not so different from our own family members.

“We are seeing more and more of our neighbors,” says Captain Paul as he began the tour. “Things are tight, and these are people you wouldn’t expect.”

Homelessness can strike anyone, especially in this tough economy. Of course, The Salvation Army does not discriminate against anyone who seeks their help.

“We are first and foremost a church,” Captain Paul claims. “Jesus took care of people, and so we do the same. Jesus didn’t ask where you’re from.”

All who come to the O’Fallon Community Center will receive help in some way, whether it is a shopping cart full of food, a safe place to live or assistance in finding a job.

This shelter wants to see its residents get back on track and return as active members in the community. As soon as a family or a single person checks into the shelter, a specified plan for their recovery is arranged in accordance to each family’s individual needs. A pathway to employment is set in place, and residents are required to attend classes at the shelter, which remind them how to properly participate in society again. These include classes on cooking, decorating, how to shop, how to keep the home neat, among many others. In addition to classes, both Captain AmyJo and Captain Paul mention the commendable relationship this particular shelter has with local school districts. Both Captains made the same comment: “The buses pick our kids up first and drop them off last, so no one has to know they are shelter kids.”

With help from classes and school districts, it is clear the shelter wants to see residents regain their place in society, but the shelter also wants to rebuild them a place in their own families. To help with this phase, there is a spacey dining room in which families are encouraged to eat together, and the children often set the table like in a traditional family. A warm and homey common room is great for families to watch television, play games, or read together. This facility runs a wonderful operation that focuses on keeping traditions alive and learning how to be a family again.

“Homelessness does not happen overnight,” remarks Captain AmyJo. “Sometimes families see months or years of crisis before they come here, and so the family system itself has blown apart.”

The O’Fallon Community Center is committed to rebuilding this family dynamic.

The residents of this facility have been through tragedies, and so they are offered a place to land where people love them and where they can make a life for themselves.

“We want the community atmosphere,” states Captain AmyJo.

That’s why the O’Fallon Community Center offers classes, a youth program that hosts activities Wednesday evenings, chapel services and so much more. This beautiful facility provides an environment where families can enjoy each other, enjoy a sense of togetherness and even take the time to enjoy nature!

It’s apparent the O’Fallon Community Center is more than meets the eye. Captain AmyJo comments on the trustworthiness of this facility.

“This is a system to get better, not just a place to crash,” she says. “We take people from homelessness to part of the economy. We’re not a shelter, we’re a program.”

This last statement wholly sums up the work of The O’Fallon Community Center. This is truly a place where compassionate, understanding and giving workers of The Salvation Army carry out God’s work.

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