The Women’s City Club has done what some said couldn’t be done — it raised $100,000 to make needed repairs to its boarding house at 135 N. Franklin St.
“Two years ago, our heating went out and ceilings caved in,” said spokeswoman Jo Ingles. “Some people said, ‘tear the house down.’ We really thought we were going to have to shut our doors and close.”
Thanks to fundraisers and donations from local churches, businesses and residents, the club was able to replace the old heating system, added air-conditioning for the first time, updated the electrical system and replaced water-damaged ceilings and the roof.
“We are amazed we did this, and got it done just in time,” said Mary Ann Davis, president of the nonprofit WCC Foundation.
The former Ohio Wesleyan University fraternity house was built in 1892, and among its residents was alumnus Norman Vincent Peale. It was purchased in 1954 by WCC founder Zuilla Way to house women who need help. More than a thousand women have lived in its rooms over the years, 10 at a time staying for a month or a year as needed. Last year, 18 women cycled through its doors.
WCC President Deb Boer said among those who have lived in the house were a mother and daughter escaping a bad relationship. The daughter was able to leave the house when she had earned enough money and a scholarship, and the club members gave her a going-away shower to help with her dorm room. The mother graduated from Columbus State, often walking from the house down to the campus on U.S. 23.
“Thank you so much for keeping this wonderful program going,” Boer said to some of the major donors on Friday. “The home is not a shelter. We have a unique situation where we ask women to live here for a period of time until they become self-sufficient.”
Some of the women who have been taken in are at risk of human trafficking, and some have couch-surfed at other people’s homes, and one was living in her car at a truck stop.
“We take anyone who is low-income and we can help. We don’t take in more than we can handle,” Ingles said. “We pair them with a mentor and look for them to be making progress.”
In addition to housing the women, the downstairs is available for rental for showers and other events. There are two chefs who can provide catering, Ingles said. On Valentine’s Day at 3:30 p.m., Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle will preside over a mass wedding at the club.
While they were making the repairs, an energy audit was done to the house, and it was discovered that many of the windows need to be repaired or replaced. To help out, visit the WCC at wccdelaware.org
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.