House of Compassion remains open despite damage to the building

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Despite sustaining damage in the tornado, especially to its bell tower, the House of Compassion, 211 W. Church St., has not had to cancel any of its services. It has stayed open for business since the tornado hit, and continues to offer its free evening meals, and is currently organizing its yearly Stuff the Bus back to school supply drive.

When people rely on you to help them obtain their basic, daily needs, failure is not an option. The House of Compassion has continued to provide its clients – and those impacted by the tornado – with all the same services it offered before the storm hit.

“We never closed any single day,” HoC assistant Maryna Salas said.

Despite being without electricity for several days following the storm, and sustaining visible damage to its bell tower, the HoC has not canceled any of its services or meals.

“I’ve got quotes out to brick masons to come in and get the loose bricks down, and we’re waiting for the insurance agent to send a structural engineer to determine how much damage was done to the bell tower,” Director March Runner said. “(The tornado) did damage to the new roof we just put on, and the gutter system.”

Runner, who officially assumed duties as director of the HoC on July 1, said she gained experience dealing with disaster relief during her time working in Galena, AK with the Red Cross. In addition, she worked with FEMA in that state during the flood of 2013.

“I’ve been through it,” she said.

The Friday following the tornado – July 20 – Runner did a preliminary assessment of the building. However, the HoC is not open on Fridays, and by the time Monday rolled around, power had been restored, followed by the gas the next day. Volunteers helped clear the debris and fix the flower beds.

The facility serves an evening meal Sunday-Friday from 5-6:15 p.m.

“We had basically a bag lunch and we set up tables over at the parking lot across the street and people were served,” she said. “We’ve been using our roasters to provide meals, so there has not been a day we haven’t served a meal or the supply closet hasn’t been open.”

Runner said the HoC is still working towards renovating the upstairs area of the building to turn it into an overnight shelter, for men only. She hopes to have it up and running by the spring of 2019.

The HoC’s annual Stuff the Bus school supply drive will soon be in full swing. People can bring in supplies now to the HoC, but due to room constraints, it is best to donate at the day of the drives. A donation bus will be on site to be “stuffed” at Hy-Vee August 3 from 4-8 p.m., and at Walmart on Aug. 4-5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. People making the donations do not have to necessarily buy those items from those retailers in order to make the donations.

The school supplies will be distributed on Aug. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Aug. 13 from 3-7 p.m at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Clothing for school-aged children will be distributed there as well, on August 11, as part of LUNA’s (Latinas Unidas por un Nuevo Amanecer) Dress to Impress clothing drive.

Previously, only HoC clients were eligible to sign-up for supplies, but the invitation has been extended.

“A lot of victims of the tornado are our clients anyway, but we wanted to extend it to others who aren’t,” Runner said.

All others must show some form of identification, proving they are a Marshalltown resident.

The HoC is open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. For more information, it may be reached at: 641-752-5999.

Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com