$800K Loan To Help Hesed House Winterize Shelter During Pandemic

AURORA, IL — The Aurora City Council unanimously approved an $800,000 loan last week to help Hesed House prepare its warehouse to shelter more than 100 people this winter.

Hesed House officials in July pleaded with the Kane County Board to provide them with some of the county’s federal coronavirus-relief funding to upgrade and winterize its makeshift shelter.

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Officials said more than 100 people have been living in tents at Hesed House’s warehouse on South River Street after the shelter was forced to reduce its capacity to follow public health guidelines amid the pandemic.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the main shelter housed an average about 250 children, women and men each night, Hesed House Managing Director Joe Jackson told a Kane County Board committee in July.

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Officials have since said the shelter — the second-largest in Illinois — can house up to 165 people at a time. If properly winterized, Hesed House’s warehouse across the street could serve up to 107, taking the shelter’s capacity beyond its pre-pandemic levels.

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Aurora will act as a bank by providing Hesed House with the $800,000 loan. City officials are hopeful Hesed House will be able to repay the loan after receiving coronavirus-relief grants from Kane and DuPage counties.

The upgrades will buy Hesed House about two years’ time to plan a capital campaign for long-term upgrades at the shelter, officials said.

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Hesed House was forced to move its residents to a local hotel after in April several people tested positive for the coronavirus.

‘Our kitchen helps heal’: Bridgewater domestic violence shelter wins kitchen reno contest

At Harbour House, a 15-bed haven for women and children escaping domestic violence in Bridgewater, N.S., the kitchen is more than a room for cooking.

It’s where body and spirit are nourished, laughter erupts, and sadly, tears are shed.

“I think a lot of women and kids come into the shelter and their spirits and their bodies are pretty broken, and our kitchen helps heal that,” said Jennifer Gagnon, the shelter’s executive director.

But in this 160-year-old home that’s been a shelter for more than three decades, the kitchen needed a lot of TLC — especially the countertop. The laminate had seen better days.

Jennifer Gagnon is the executive director of South Shore Transition House Association. (Linked In)

“We did a little internal renovations a couple of years ago and tried to brighten it up that way, but it certainly didn’t shine,” Gagnon said.

So when the chance to win a new countertop appeared on Gagnon’s Facebook feed in late May, she started typing a nomination for Harbour House. The contest was put on by a local company, Stonewrights, as a way to show appreciation to customers for keeping their business afloat during the pandemic.

Of the five community groups in the running, Harbour House had the most votes, hands down, said Martina Groeger, co-owner of Stonewrights.

She’s glad the shelter was the winner because its work is close to her heart. Groeger is a former teacher and the past chair of the Lunenburg County Community Health Board. She said the shelter’s work was vital during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“Part of my concern was what is going to happen to women and children that are actually at home with an abusive partner or parent because we know that exists,” she said.

The old kitchen had tired laminate countertops and electrical