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County Commission hears request from Friendship House

The Decatur County Commissioners met Tuesday morning for their regularly scheduled meeting. Only two items were on the agenda, with Josh Paske from the Bainbridge Friendship House providing an update on the ministry’s operations.

“I came to Friendship House when I was 20 years old, and we didn’t have much of a facility,” Paske said, recounting his history with the organization. “We actually had several old buildings over on Russ Street, and when I first started I was in an older dilapidated house, which we’ve renovated into Still Waters Shelter.”

Paske went on to emphasize the work of Friendship Ministries, specifically with dealing with fatherless homes. “I began to see that I was specifically and strategically placed at the Friendship House 20 years ago to be a father to the fatherless,” he said.

One thing that was a key point of focus during the presentation was the impact of COVID on the Friendship House’s operations. “During COVID, on the lockdown, kids weren’t going to school,” Paske said, “what was happening at home, with no parental supervision, or maybe even the wrong parental supervision? We’ve heard several stories of kids saying, ‘I’m so glad you’re back open, we’d much rather be at your house, than at our own house.’”

Another impact COVID had on the operation was the closing of the Still Waters women’s housing program. “COVID had put a damper on that service we provide to the community. Because of social distancing and the women that were living under one shelter, we ended up losing our full-time director that oversaw that program. We had to close the doors… however there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” According to Paske, a new director has been hired for Still Waters. However, due to the financial impact of COVID, Friendship ministries is in need of funding to offset the new director’s salary; during the meeting Paske requested if COVID relief funding from the office of Sanford Bishop could be used for this. According to Administrator Alan Thomas, the funding can be appropriated for an organization like Friendship House.

“We have a plan in place to self-sustain,” Paske said. “Our goal is not to continually come back and look for people to make sure that we keep our doors open.” Community involvement and fundraising are planned to keep up the salary and other costs in the future. Friendship House is also looking at other sources of COVID relief to try and offset costs. The County Commissioners took the request under advisement.