Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter displays new facility at open house

Published 3:58 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It was a cold night in January 2015 when the Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter first opened its doors along Talbott Avenue.

It marked the first day of what has already been a remarkable journey for the local non-profit, which on Sunday opened its doors to the public to the new facility located at 850 Bypass Road.

The move to the new facility — which was the former location of Major Dad’s Military Supplies and Surplus — gives the Beacon of Hope more than triple the space it had at the old location.

That, and even more room to grow.

Dozens of community members, friends and family including state Rep. Donna Mayfield, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado and Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner took part in Sunday’s open house at the Beacon of Hope’s new home. The shelter recently signed a five-year lease agreement at the newest location.

“It’s so exciting,” board President Michele Bradford said. “We were in about 1,800-squre feet, now we’re in about 5,400-square feet. We’re just so happy and we actually enjoy coming in here every day. Every day there’s something new for us to do.”

Bradford, along with other board members and volunteers, spent the majority of Sunday afternoon welcoming visitors and providing tours at the facility, which was renovated in just over a month’s time with the help various volunteers and residents.

“It was very exhausting,” Rachel Grigsby, treasurer, said. “There were nights where we stayed all night, worked around the clock.”

Grigsby said people such as Joey Hatton, Tom Cantrell, youth and adult groups from Central Baptist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among other countless others played key roles in getting the building ready for the move.

“I’d say at least 50 percent of the work was done by the residents,” Grigsby said. “We had a female resident who did a lot of the mudding for the walls and she’d never done drywall work before. It was just amazing to watch.

“It’s a beautiful place.”

The move was also bittersweet, Grigsby said.

“That’s the first word that comes to mind, bittersweet,” Grigsby said. “It was pretty hard leaving our other building, Michele and I cried many tears when we turned the lights off because there were so many memories made in that building. I can tell you the names of all six of the first people we had that first night.

“There’s so many success stories, some failures and a lot of stories and memories in that building. But now, we’re here and we’ll have so many new stories and memories. I told the group last night they’ll always be special to me because they’re the group that built the new Beacon.”

The Beacon’s new home now has more than triple the space of the Talbott Avenue location and will give residents of the 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week emergency shelter a much larger — and needed — kitchen and pantry area as well as dining room facility.

Each men’s and women’s sleeping area are also nearly double the size of the previous facility, but Bradford said for now the Beacon doesn’t have plans to expand their capacity of 41 beds.

“We’ll have room to add cots if we need to,” Bradford said. “But we’re keeping it strictly as it’s been before. We don’t want to grow any bigger right now.”

The building features a larger linen closet, mens and women’s bathrooms, and a shower is planned to soon be installed. Near the main entrance is a media center room which allows residents computer access for job searching along with “Bill’s Corner,” a children’s play area dedicated to former volunteer Bill Fix who recently passed away.

“He (Fix) volunteered for us for about six or seven months and he shared the vision of the Beacon and he loved our residents and children so much,” Bradford said. “He took them to Vacation Bible School and he’d bring in books or toys or whatever he could for the kids. He had a special way of taking a broom, picking out a resident and saying let’s spent some time together. That was his way of getting to know people, whether is was a few minutes sweeping up out front or outside.”

Fix passed away just about a week before the Beacon announced they’d be moving to the new location.

“He was just always happy, he was a remarkable man and we had seen him on Monday and he passed out, he died on a Thursday,” Bradford said. “He was a picture of health, a great man and we dedicated our children’s room to him because he loved them so much. We made a sign above the door in his honor and each little symbol on it means something. Everybody that comes into this room will see his beautiful face before they walk in.

“I think he’d be proud of this.”

Lorin Demikhov, who serves as the Beacon of Hope’s pastor, said he wishes everyone could come visit the shelter.

“If there’s one message, most people don’t realize how close they are to coming to a place like this,” Demikhov said. “It’s one paycheck away, one disaster and you start juggling bills until they’re too caught up to you. Most people have the wrong concept of the homeless, most of them it was one bad decision or one disaster. I wish people would come here to see the stigma of homelessness is not true most of the time.”

Demikhov, who used to be a paster of Shephard’s Church, said he wasn’t even aware a homeless shelter existed in Winchester until he and his wife, Pamela, discovered it in January.

“We were just around the corner and I was surprised we had a homeless shelter,” Demikhov said. “The day we found out about it, I was there every day. The Bible is very simple to me, we are called to be Christ-like. He loved those who thought they were unlovable, so if can’t love others that think they are unlovable, we are not being Christ-like.”

Pamela Demikhov, who is one of several volunteers at the Beacon, said the facility and the open house in which many people from the Winchester community came out to support, has been inspirational.

“It’s very motivational and inspiring that there’s hope,” Pamela Demikhov said. “The people is this community are so giving and this is a stepping stone for people to get back on their feet.”

For more information on the Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter, Inc. or to help volunteer, call 644-5171 or follow on Facebook at Winchester Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter.

Contact Steve Foley at steve.foley@winchestersun.com or follow him on Twitter @SteveFoley8.