By: Deja Francis, Sports Information Intern
When the St. Bonaventure basketball teams converted on their free throws earlier this season, those baskets meant a little extra.
St. Bonaventure University Athletics partnered with The Genesis House during the month of February to help raise money for those in need in the community. Both the coaches of the men's and women's basketball teams agreed to donate $1 for every made free throw. The men's team made 68 free throws through the month of February while the women's team sank 59.
Paul Brown Motors agreed to donate $1,000 as well to The Genesis House.
Pat O'Malley, The Genesis House chairman of the board, depicts a more illustrated idea of The Genesis House for those on the outside looking in and insight on how the donations will be used.
The Genesis House was founded and dedicated to help the homeless in 1995. Neighborhood congregations came together because of the increased number of homeless locally.
"It was a concern at the time that homelessness was increasing (locally) and the people in the congregations came together and thought that we could do something. St. Stephen's Episcopal Church was given the house on Barry Street by Mary B. Scott, a parishioner," said O'Malley. From then it was declared to be a new program to help people change their lives. They started with the Adopt a Room campaign at the Barry Street facility.
"The name Genesis stands for new beginning, and we offer a new beginning to those who are homeless," said O'Malley.
The Genesis House has evolved in several ways since then. The house isn't just a shelter: They provide benefits that shelters do not. The Genesis House allows residents to stay for 30-to-45 days. There are two different facilities, a facility for women and families located on Barry Street allows up to four families or eight residents. The Second Street facility, which is for men only, can hold three men. If both facilities are full, the Department of Social Service helps to provide money to put others in hotels.
The staff assists residents in finding apartments, jobs, enrolling residents children into schools and even some of the residents have been convinced to go back to school. Many residents have enrolled into Jamestown Community College.
"We've had several residents that we talked into going to school. Actually a year ago we had a gentleman who had been with us for a while become a house manager and graduate from Pitt-Bradford with his masters in counseling," O'Malley said.
Other services are provided for mental health and physical health as well. Doctors volunteer as physicians to treat and monitor residents, especially children. The Department of Social Services provides WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, as well as food stamps for residents. The Council on Addiction Recovery Services (CAReS) provide residents who are in recovery extra support such as AA meetings, and residents who are often suffering from mental health issues are offered counseling.
When residents come to Genesis House they have to sign a contract that says they will follow all the guidelines of the program which includes all of the benefits.
Reimbursements come from the state for each resident, grants are written to upgrade the facility, donations, community support and volunteer work are just a couple of ways The Genesis House gets to help out and better the community.
"We have a lot of volunteers normally that help and we haven't been able to have the volunteers come in because of Covid. A lot of our volunteers come from the community, we've had boycotts help us all the congregations have volunteers that come out," said O'Malley.
Awareness is raised and word is spread for volunteers and donors through social media, mostly Facebook as well as; seminars, going around to different businesses, mail with success stories and luminary night. Luminary night is where they use votive candles in white bags to light up the park on the coldest night of the year. The light is to show love and understanding for those in need of shelter due to the hardships caused by the cold and dark winter.
The Genesis House receives the most residents in the winter due to the cold weather in the area. However since May, two months into the pandemic, the number of residents has been consistent. The numbers have stayed at a constant rate because of the current state of the world.
The coronavirus hasn't changed much for the Genesis House in terms of what they can offer those in need, but they have to be extra careful and keep an eye on residents for symptoms just in case they need to get tested. Visitors are not allowed in the facility, but because of the health risk, volunteers are not allowed into the homes. The virus has also altered the spread of awareness and the Bonnies are looking to turn that around.
"I love the idea of young people coming and wanting to find out about the homeless and support us, I think you'll be refreshing and give some new ideas on things to do," said O'Malley.
O'Malley wishes to continue this partnership having the Bonnies volunteer after basketball season to raise money and awareness.
To learn more about how you can support the cause, visit www.genesishouseofolean.org.