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Lowe's donates to local non-profit

A Woodstock homeless shelter received $3,576 as 'Lowe's Heroes' honorees

By Preston Knight pknight@nvdaily.com

MAURERTOWN -- The forecast of late has been amenable for snowball making at one nonprofit organization.

The Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter was the recipient of the Woodstock Lowe's store's heroes recognition earlier this month, bringing it $3,576 for various materials to improve the exterior of the building and add benches and a grill. About 15 "Lowe's Heroes" volunteers visited Sept. 10 to mulch, paint, plant and more with alliance residents.

The end result is making the facility, which is a transitional homeless shelter at the Shenandoah County Alms House preparing clients to become independent, a place that feels more like home, program administrator Melissa Nilsen said. It has created a "snowball effect" by which all nine current residents want to pitch in and help maintain the garden and the like, she said.

"It gives them a sense of ownership," Nilsen said. "It's helping to improve the morale of the whole shelter. If it looks nice, it makes you feel better."

The shelter has four units that can hold up to 15 people. All of the units are currently full, but the size of the families adds up to only nine. They share some areas, including a living room and kitchen, making it feel like a single-family house with just one set of relatives, Nilsen said.

"One kid said that they were one big, happy family," she said.

Lowe's contributed to the cause as it does for various organizations every year. Nationally in 2010, the company's "heroes" participated in more than 1,300 projects and donated more than $1.3 million in materials, its website states.

In the county, past recipients of the hero treatment include the Shenandoah County Pregnancy Center and Response Inc. The shelter's status as an historic landmark helped its chances to join the list, according to a press release.

"We wanted to do something that not only fit the parameters of the program, but also had historical significance," Mary Ellen Phillips, an administrative assistant at Lowe's, says in the release.

Nilsen said shelter clients can stay at the alms house for up to two years, but the average length is around 10 months. With the aesthetic improvements recently made, that duration will be more enjoyable, she said.

"Improving what's around them helps people around them," Nilsen said. "A lot of families end up being friends with each other."

For more information about the shelter and to learn how to donate money or household items, call 436-3202 or visit www.allianceforshelter.org.

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