Interview with Paula Ferenc Executive Director
Tell us about your organization, and when was it founded?
Belknap House was organized by a small community coalition and established as a nonprofit in 2014, followed by obtaining funding, purchasing a building and renovating it, hiring staff, and creating policies and procedures. Belknap House opened in March 2017 and welcomed its first families.
What is your organization’s mission?
Belknap House provides safe shelter for families in Belknap County, especially when children are at risk during homelessness. We empower families to become self-sufficient by providing opportunities of education and resource referrals.
Who do you serve within the Greater Lakes Region? And through what programs and services?
Belknap House serves all types of families experiencing homelessness, including, but not limited to, those led by single parents, grandparents, and expectant moms. Our program first stabilizes families that are in crisis, helping them to feel secure enough to make necessary changes in their lives to be successful. Case management works with families in collaboration with local service agencies. Courses such as Financial Fitness, Understanding Behavior, Cooking and Nutrition, and Resumes are provided.
How do you impact peoples’ lives?
We strive to assist everyone with the most appropriate internal and community resources. Here is one example: A single dad and his children entered Belknap House. He had never had a job outside of the home because he was the only caregiver for his elderly parents while they were sick. Case management worked with him, creating a list of skills that were required in caring for his parents and their home; that became the foundation for his resume. Rick worked hard to achieve new skills, while stability was maintained for his children. Rick gained confidence and was hired at Walmart, enabling him to provide for his family.
How has funding from the Greater Lakes Children’s Auction benefited your organization?
Belknap House is grateful for the generous support the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction has provided. Funding has supported shelter operations and provided essential needs for infants and children. Support for capital improvements has also been received.
What kind of feedback do you get from those you serve?
Most parents share a real sense of relief and gratitude, shortly after arriving at Belknap House. Whether their children are lying on pillows reading books, playing in the children’s room, or eating a meal together as a family, parents witness their children feeling safe and content.
After months of hard work on individual goals, securing a job, and managing challenging life circumstances, one mom of three and her family moved into their own apartment. She said: “Staying at Belknap House helped me to let my guard down, because I knew that my family was safe. With the help of the staff and case workers, I was able to reach my goals.”
Interview done by Janice Beetle Books.