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Not For Profit: Lighthouse Mission

Nov. 19, 2006 — If not for the Lighthouse Mission workers, many people in need would not have at least one hot meal every day. In addition to serving the needs of the homeless, the mission also provides a safe haven for children after school.
The life of a homeless or destitute person presents ever-changing challenges, unfathomable to most individuals. But thanks to the Lighthouse Mission workers, they have one thing they can count on: a hearty breakfast.
The Lighthouse Mission, located at the corner of Times Square in Christiansted, touches many people through its programs of education and compassion. The faith-based organization first opened its doors in 1997, filling a need for people who — for whatever reason — find themselves living on the streets.
"We started out handing out sandwiches," says Assistant Program Director Sarah Desonier. "The program grew and got more involved in the community." Today the organization provides a hot, nutritious breakfast five days a week, doling out heaping helpings on the corner outside its building.
"We serve 20 to 30 breakfasts a day," Desonier says, "Sometimes more." The people who look forward to the hot meal frequent the Christiansted town area, sleeping wherever they can lay their heads. "When they come in the morning, you can see they are not rested," Desonier says. They often try to sleep during the day because they are afraid of getting robbed or worse, she explains. The local Rotary Club take turns providing breakfasts on the weekends.
The mission provides much more than a hot meal. On certain days the homeless can come into the building and get a hot shower. A washer and dryer are available, too. The "clothing closet" can provide a needy person with a pants or shirt. If they are open to religious ministry, there's plenty of that to go around.
Pat Ledesma worked as a cook at the mission for about a year. She feels disheartened by the plight of the homeless. The government should help by building a shelter, she says. "It's a shame, with so many vacant buildings, that the homeless can't have a place where they can rest and be secure in the night."
Knowing that many of the homeless have drug or alcohol dependencies, the mission also provides rehabilitation referrals and hosts a program called Alcohol Victorious. It has sent several of its clients to stateside rehab programs.
On weekday afternoons, the mission reaches out to area children, providing them a safe haven and homework help after school. On the second floor of its building, along with administrative offices, are three classrooms where children receive Bible study and tutoring.
Children from kindergarten through second grade occupy one classroom, while the third- to sixth-grade boys and girls are separated by gender in the other two classrooms, Desonier explains.
The after-school program is free and serves a maximum of 30 students. When the children arrive at the mission, they get a nutritious meal and have some play time before resuming their studies.
The mission programs could not run effectively without its dedicated volunteers, Desonier remarks. "We have six paid staff and about 30 volunteers," she says. "A lot of students come back and volunteer."
Calling the programs a "necessity" for the community, Desonier says there is still much more work to be done. But she is hopeful for what the future could bring. "We are slowly making progress."
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