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Union Gospel Mission renovation plan moving forward

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The Union Gospel Mission of Grays Harbor is the recent recipient of a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant.
The much-needed funds will help pay for a $900,000 ground floor renovation in the coming months. The balance of funding will come from smaller foundation grants and community donations.
The job is scheduled to be put out to bid sometime next month.
“We’re real excited,” said Laurel Witala, the mission’s executive director. “It’s unusual we received a block grant on the first try. I guess they could see our need and that we’ll be able to keep going to meet those needs.”
The floor plan will be reorganized to get better use out of the building. The renovation will allow for a day room where people can leave their possessions, meet with case workers and take care of other personal business. It will also add three showers and toilets to the facility.
“There are only two showers upstairs. When we get a packed house it’s tough,” she explained. “We have to schedule use of showers in 15-minute increments to make sure everyone gets a shower every day.”
Redesign of the main floor of the mission will also double the amount of dining space and overhaul the kitchen layout so there is more space. Though they have a commercial dishwasher, dishes are done by hand because there isn’t enough space to install it, Witala said.
Union Gospel Mission provides three meals a day on weekdays and two a day on weekends — more than 45,000 meals total in 2015.
The next largest feeding program in Aberdeen is through Catholic Community Services, which serves one meal each day. Witala explained not only is the mission the most extensive food service program, but it’s also the community’s largest shelter.
And the renovation will strengthen the 100-year-old-plus building the mission has been operating out of for more than 7o years.
“The building’s well taken care of, but we have to do this to keep going,” Witala pointed out.
The kitchen could be closed for a day or two here and there as the project unfolds. Sandwiches, soups and sack meals will be prepared during those periods to avoid interruptions of food service, she stressed.
People who manage the mission say there is enough room for those in need of a place to stay, such as families who don’t want to split up. Homeless single women and women with children are referred to Friendship House.
And some homeless people don’t agree with the shelter’s rules, such as getting up at a certain hour and being prepared to start the day within a specified time frame, said Gary Rowell, executive director.
Even if they disagree with the mission’s methods, staff tries to get them in contact with someone who can help them.
“There are all sorts of ways to get help,” Rowell said. “Each group thinks there way’s the best. But no matter what, if the person doesn’t deal with the issues that are troubling them it’s an endless cycle.”
Most of the money has been raised for the work and the design by Harbor Architects is complete. The goal is to have the work completed by June 2017.
After that the mission will move on to its next major maintenance project: a new roof.
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