Heart House doing just fine

DeWayne Bartels

At a time when a sagging economy and diminished state and federal funding is putting an economic strain on social service agencies, Heart House and Heartline are doing just fine.

Executive director Jennifer Gholson-Kozik who oversees the agency — which houses a shelter and provides an array of social service functions — attributes the agency’s well-being to their philosophy.

“We believed from the beginning we needed to be self-sufficient,” Gholson-Kozik said. “We do not want government money or to come to rely on it. Our funding is almost level.”

Their support comes from churches and the United Way.

The agency has also not seen a large upturn in need.

“For Heart House (which helps both the homeless and domestic abuse victims) the need is about medium. We’re rarely empty or full,” Gholson-Kozik said.

The shelter can house six families or a maximum of 21 people. The shelter, on average, is housing two or three families.

“We’re the only shelter in Woodford County. We have the rooms available so it doesn’t make sense to turn people away no matter why they need shelter,” Gholson-Kozik said. “People in Woodford County, we have found, do not want to go to Peoria, Pekin or Bloomington for help.”

The agency traces its roots back to 1982 when Heartline was started on the campus of Eureka College. It began as a hot line offering referrals to agencies for people in need.

“It became clear quickly they needed to do a whole lot more,” Gholson-Kozik said. “After 10 years it became obvious they needed a shelter.”

The agency is now located on Reagan Drive, behind Eureka College.

The agency, Gholson-Kozik said, is not just about delivering shelter or services.

“I think we give hope. We make people coming in here feel like a valued member of a family,” she said. “We try to show people that whatever problem they are facing is not new and that others have faced it and have gotten through it and gotten better.”

The agency operates with three full-time employees and one part-time person.

The rest of the work is handled by volunteers and those seeking help at the shelter or from Heartline.

“Since we do not take government money we can make people work to pay back the help they receive. They work two hours for each service we provide,” Gholson-Kozik said. “It is phenomenal the way our clients work. They realize nothing is free.”