POINT PLEASANT — A $52,000 donation from a charitable trust started by the late Jack and Frances “Babs” Fruth has significantly moved the needle on the goal of building a new homeless shelter in Mason County.
With the $52,000 donation, along with other fundraising efforts, there is now enough funds to purchase property and begin engineering efforts on the facility.
Jon Machir, director of the homeless shelter, said the new facility will allow double the capacity for housing those in need, adding, last year, due to limited space and occupancy safety requirements, the shelter had to turn away 111 families. He added the new property has been identified and will be named once secured. He did stress it would still be located near the downtown area, with easy access to various state and county agencies. The hope is to break ground on the facility next year. The donation could also give the homeless shelter an advantage when applying for grants now that the purchase of the property and engineering phase can get under way.
Lynne, Joan and John Fruth presented the check last week at the shelter, on behalf their family, including siblings Carol and Mike.
The presentation was also made on behalf of their parents who started the charitable trust about 20 years ago. Lynne said her mother wished the money to stay in Mason County and the homeless shelter was one of the specific organizations she wished to assist. Lynne talked about her mother, who grew up during The Depression, telling stories of making bread and butter sandwiches for homeless people who knocked on her family’s back door and were in need. Homeless Shelter Manager Teresa Gleason said the tradition continued with Babs often stopping by the shelter to donate items, particularly at Christmas when not only did residents receive socks and gloves but a gift card from Fruth Pharmacy to choose their own gift.
“She had a special passion for this place,” Lynne said about her mother, with Gleason adding the late Mrs. Fruth was often giving to the shelter without the desire to be recognized for it.
David Harris, chairperson for the Southwestern Community Action Council, and Dwight Coburn, CEO of the Southwestern Community Action Council made the trip from Huntington to be on hand for the presentation. Both men said this type of donation was rare and expressed gratitude to the Fruth family for making it. The Southwestern Community Action Council, Inc. (SCAC) is a private non-profit 501c3 agency whose mission is to facilitate the social and economic well-being of low-income families in Cabell, Lincoln, Mason, and Wayne counties in West Virginia. Southwestern receives various federal, state and local grants toward this end as well as public and private donations.
Lynne said her family believed the way you change a community is giving people opportunities, which included over $1 million in scholarships being awarded to students from the Fruth family over the years.
Helping give the Fruth family a tour of the shelter, a home which is 91 years old, was Jim and Sharry Rossi who are on the advisory council for the shelter and are cousins to the Fruth children. Jim said he was shocked to learn at the start of the school year, there were around 100 children in Mason County who met the criteria for being homeless.
The donation from the Fruth charitable trust will also allow the shelter to continue its food pantry operation. A significant donation was also going to Trinity UM Church to assist with its food basket program.
“We’re super excited about this,” Lynne said concerning the family’s donation to the shelter as well as the food basket program, but beyond that, about the legacy of helping people and hopefully inspiring others to do what they can, where they can, when they can.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.