After 10 years of dreaming and planning, two sisters launched Foundations for Living Inc. in November 2011.
Their goal was to help the homeless in Waupaca.
Robin Madson and Lynda Babino wanted to offer more than a place to stay; they wanted to provide counseling and work opportunities for men who had been in trouble with the law and shelter for women seeking protection from domestic violence.
They desired to realize their vision of Christ as one who fed the poor, comforted the afflicted, visited inmates and healed bodies and souls.
By August 2012, the sisters had no more than $1,500 in the bank, Babino had been diagnosed with cancer, and internal conflict had led to half their board of directors resigning.
In those dark times, they turned to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 for inspiration.
In the late summer of 2012, they received an offer to rent a home to the organization.
The remaining board members took a leap of faith and voted unanimously to sign a lease for the four bedroom home.
Two weeks later, the group received a $5,000 grant from the Waupaca Area Community Foundation.
Since then, Foundations for Living has grown from a single facility to four homes, located on Ware, Bailey, Union and Main streets.
The organization currently serves 36 men and women, including one family with five children.
Foundations also generated more than $25,000 in revenue last year.
The two sisters are now working with a volunteer staff of five in their offices at Ruby’s Pantry on Tenth Street, three housing mentors, a website developer, a grant writer and a marketing professional.
“We have a lot of really good people who are giving a lot of hours,” Madson said.
Further good news has been Babino’s prognosis of health and healing from her cancer.
“We did not expect to have four houses after just one year,” Madson said.
Madson said residents in the homes are usually recommended by the local probation and parole office, county social services, CAP Services, a school psychologist and area churches.
“Sometimes, we can help people, sometimes we can’t,” Madson said. “We look beyond just needing a roof over their heads. There has to be a commitment.”
Madson said the goal of Foundations for Living is to help people turn their lives around. They are screened prior to being accepted into the program and they must commit to working with the mentors and counselors.
“We would never put anybody in the house who was a threat to the other people living there or to the community,” Madson said.
Each resident of a Foundations’ home must work 40 hours per week either as a paid employee or as a volunteer in a program that provides marketable job skills.
Those who are unemployed are required to look for work.
Residents also have rules regarding their home.
They are required to perform chores. Each week, the chores are placed into a bowl and pulled out randomly so a resident is not required to always perform the same chores.
“If they are unable to pay the programming costs, we charge them 20 percent of their income. If their income is zero, they are expected to put in 40 hours per week as volunteers,” Madson said.
House managers oversee the residents and their compliance with the organization’s guidelines.
House mentors are, as Madson describes them, grandfather figures who focus less on the house rules and more on how the residents are coping with the changes occurring in their lives.
Madson stressed the program provides transitional living. Residents live in one of the homes for at least six months and for no more than two years.
The goal is that after two years, participants in the program have developed the job skills and personal habits that will allow them to succeed on their own.
Madson said Foundations for Living still needs donations.
At this point, personal care products, such as soap and shampoo, and household items, such as blankets and sheets, are needed.
Items may be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 717 Tenth St., Waupaca.
Go to http://foundationsforlivingwaupaca.com/ for more information.