TRAVERSE CITY — Grace Episcopal Church's Jubilee House is no longer bursting at the seams, thanks to a grant- and donation-funded renovation that nearly doubled the building's living space.
The downtown facility provides laundry, showers, storage, computer use and a mail system year-round to those who are homeless or otherwise in need, and serves as an emergency shelter during extreme winter weather.
"Five years ago we were averaging about 20 people a day, and now there's about 50 people a day," said Connie Riopelle, Jubilee House's interim director. "Last year we were averaging close to 65 people when it was such a long, cold winter. We had standing room only sometimes."
A $35,000 donation from the Ray and Frances Spedding estate allowed church officials to remodel a garage into a food pantry, which freed up critical space in the Jubilee House where the pantry formerly was housed.
Grants from Rotary Charities of Traverse City, The Oleson Foundation, The Potter's House Church of Traverse City and individual donations funded construction of a handicap-accessible second full bathroom, a quiet sitting room and a conference room in the old pantry space.
"It definitely gives it a more pleasant, not-so-crowded feeling," Peggy Bunn said.
Bunn has volunteered at Jubilee House since 2011. She said the quiet sitting area away from the room with the television provides clients a place to relax.
The new conference room means representatives from such agencies as Goodwill Northern Michigan and the local Veterans Affairs office can meet with clients at a central location.
"We never had a place where they could go and have any privacy," Bunn said.
The Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan, will bless the new space after Grace Episcopal Church's worship service on Sunday at 10 a.m.
The blessing will start at about 11:30 a.m. and a public open house will follow.
Parish Administrator Ann Hackett said the most important thing is the Jubilee House can now serve more people and in a more comfortable setting.
Volunteers had enough donation money left over to give the house a makeover throughout. A fresh coat of paint and like-new furniture completes the transformation.
"It was just supposed to be a garage remodel, but we had people who were motivated," Hackett said.
Parishoners' next step is to apply for grants and seek donations to help fund a handicap-accessible entrance ramp for the house and to widen interior doorways.
"It's a wish of ours to complete that accessibility, but that depends on what funds we can receive," Hackett said.