RUSKIN — New paint covers the walls, new curtains hang in front of the windows and new warmth fills the room.
A bedroom for homeless women and their children who are temporarily living at the Mary & Martha House received a complete makeover thanks to the Hillsborough County Ancient Order of Hibernians from Sun City Center's Prince of Peace Catholic Church parish.
The men's and women's chapters kicked off the Adopt-a-Room program last month, seeing it as an opportunity to use their time, talent and resources to redecorate a room in the shelter where homeless and abused women and their children receive temporary and transitional housing and support services so they can eventually live on their own.
The group completed the work this week. It donated sheets, blankets, bedspreads, towels and other items to bring comfort to the room — and comfort to the women. Hibernian Kevin O'Keefe repainted the room and members Pat Bennis, Kate Palardis, Rosemary Woodworth and Colleen Walker decorated it.
Mary & Martha House program development manager Laurie Herring said the goal was to make the room as warm, inviting and nurturing as possible for the women and their children who live there.
Mary & Martha House offers a safe environment where abused and homeless women can regroup, learn good parenting skills, get a job, prepare for a move to long-term transitional housing and ultimately choose a career that will give them independence.
Guests of Mary & Martha House receive professional services such as job search skills, self-esteem classes, communication skills, computer literacy classes and on-the-job training at the organization's boutique store in Ruskin.
In conjunction with the Adopt-a-Room program, the Hibernians also volunteered to renovate and refurbish the administrative office building at 1009 First St. SW in Ruskin. Last month, they power-washed the outside of the building, and then the group reorganized the storage shed and fixed the ramp leading to the Thrift Store, using their own materials and tools.
Ancient Order of Hibernians president Jim Harkins suggested the group help Mary & Martha House since they're local neighbors in need.
"Pope Francis is encouraging us to take care of the needy," Harkins said. "We're not just writing a check and walking away. Besides working on the property, we're going shopping and getting everything their clients need, from pots and pans to all the basics."
"What we provide here is more than just a room," Herring says. "Every woman has her own set of circumstances and we support that. They never pay for anything while they are here. We supply everything they need."
If you would like to Adopt-a-Room or donate to the Mary & Martha House, contact Herring at (813) 645-7874.
For information about the organization, its clients, and the services it provides, visit the website at marymarthahouse.org.
For information about the Hibernians, call (813) 938-5476.
Kathryn Moschella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.