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Published: Saturday, 11/2/2013

Open Door in Delta leads clients to help

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
BLADE COLUMNIST
Mary Alice Powell. Mary Alice Powell.
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The comings and goings at the Open Door in Delta Monday were typical of everyday business. If anything, it was slower than usual, executive director Kristene Clark said.

At the entrance by the food pantry, a supermarket cart was filled with free bread and rolls. Several shoppers were looking at everything from Christmas sweaters to curtains and winter boots in the Thrift Store, and two of the 50 Open Door volunteers helped customers at the jewelry counter. Other volunteers scurried around arranging merchandise on racks and shelves. “We couldn’t exist without the volunteers,” Ms. Clark said.

Across the hall, a young woman doing community service was getting instructions on how to cut donated cotton T-shirts into strips that the Open Door sells to factories for rags.

And in her office, Ms. Clark was aware that it was almost time for the young man who had a job interview at another location to return. That morning, she had made sure he was dressed in appropriate trousers, shirt, and tie, selected from the Thrift Store, and hoped their conversation had relieved some of his concerns.

“It was a lunch interview,” she explained. “He wanted to know how to order and what to say at lunch. I told him to order the special if they had one and we reviewed a group of questions that he might be asked. We are like family here. I really root for our job applicants.”

Ms. Clark said that she often hears from people whom the agency has helped find a job.

The Open Door is a nonprofit organization in downtown Delta. With the goal of bringing together multiple services under one roof to help the people of Delta and Fulton County, the building houses five agencies: Hands of Grace, Delta Community Outreach, YWCA, Hope Services, and Fulton County Habitat for Humanity.

Ms. Clark defines the Open Door as the umbrella that covers other essential services in the community including the Transition Center, the Bridge Center, the Unique Doorknob, and the Other Door.

Why so many doors? The director’s explanation is that all the Delta doors are wide open to help people, in contrast to the closed doors that people in distress often face.

The outreach program features a food pantry that is stocked with food donated by area residents and companies.

“Fulton County people are very generous," Ms. Clark said as she explained the donations of fresh produce during the growing season. To qualify for the pantry, families must be in the Pike-Delta-York School District.

“Last year we were given so many bushels of Japanese eggplants I had to go online to get recipes,” she recalled. One hundred turkeys have been offered for Thanksgiving, and Christmas baskets will be distributed.

The Transition Center helps people find jobs, further their education, and obtain food, clothing, and medication. The shelter is furnished with 12 dormitory-style beds, where residents usually stay about three months or until they are able to return to independent living. During their stay they receive lessons in finance, food shopping, and cooking. Last year, the dorm was occupied for the equivalent of 1,200 nights.

The Bridge Center offers classes to help people become self-sufficient. Included are classes on GED test preparation, computer training, and resume writing. Ms. Clark is proud to report that the center has a 100 percent passage rate on GED scores and that 16 people have graduated this year.

The Unique Doorknob has an impressive collection of art created by local artists for sale. Works by Norma Thomas Herr, Wauseon watercolor artist; Nannette Sturtevant, Swanton acrylic artist; and Becky Latta, a potter from Defiance, are on display along with jewelry, hand-blown paperweights, and gourd art.

The grand opening of the Unique Doorknob will be Nov. 17 from 1 to 5 p.m. A series of Thursday night painting classes will begin Jan. 9 with Nora Sallows, Wauseon, teaching.

The Other Door carries used household furniture and is adjacent to the Doorknob at 327 Main St. in Delta.

Ms. Clark shared an example of Delta’s big heart. A young man who came north from Arizona did not get the job he expected in Defiance. With Open Door guidance he passed the GED.

When he was asked what he wanted to do, he said, “I want to go home.”

“So we bought him a plane ticket back to Arizona. It is important people are where their support system is,” she said.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com



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