MANSFIELD – It all started several years ago, from the back of Angie Henke’s car. Motivated by a strong drive to help locals who were struggling financially, Henke regularly met individuals in parking lots to distribute donated essentials like formula, school uniforms and diapers.
Soon, volunteers with a shared passion joined Henke’s effort. Community donations filled up a couple of storage units, and before long, a nonprofit named Reaching Out was founded.
As Reaching Out volunteers worked within the local community, from running a “free store” filled with donated goods to providing community meals every Sunday, they eventually found their niche: providing homeless individuals with a temporary place to sleep, shower and eat.
“We grew to know the homeless community, which I didn't know was so large in our county,” Henke said. “I knew God was leading us in a different direction. The homeless community needed our services. They needed our help.”
For the last few years, Reaching Out has used a house on Harker St. to provide homeless men with up to 30 days of respite from their situation. During their stay, volunteers connect these men with local agencies in order to find more permanent solutions.
Since October, when their most recent season started, the Harker St. house has serviced 73 men from Richland, Ashland and Crawford counties. They typically host 10 to 12 men per night.
Recently, Reaching Out has received a newly gifted house. With this generous donation, they will finally be able to open a place of shelter specifically for local homeless women.
The organization is looking for volunteers to help with cleaning out the house and with needed renovations. The house needs a new roof before operations can begin.
In addition to volunteering time and labor, monetary donations and household products are always needed. Basic household items like coffee creamer, toilet paper, travel-size hygiene products, styrofoam cups and plates are examples of much-needed resources for the houses.
“The more people we can keep off the street, the better it is for all of us as a community. They're not in abandoned houses and buildings; they're not getting in sheds to stay warm; they're not starting fires to stay warm,” Henke said.
Reaching Out is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. PayPal donations can be sent through the link on their Facebook group page. Checks can be sent to Reaching Out, 114 Vennum Ave., Mansfield, OH 44903. Questions can be directed to Angie Henke at 419-565-2007.