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Valpo Woman’s Club needs help to keep women’s housing going

Valparaiso Woman's Club president Mary Robis(left) treasurer Janet Magnus(right) talk with Hartford Steam Boiler field claim adjuster Steve Smith (center)

Valparaiso Woman's Club president Mary Robison (left) and treasurer Janet Magnuson (right) talk with Hartford Steam Boiler field claim adjuster Steve Smith (center) by the club's boiler (background) in Valparaiso, Ind. Thursday February 7, 2013. The club has been without heat since January 29, and work is being done to repair a cracked boiler so residents can move back in. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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How to help

Donations toward a new furnace can be made at First Source Bank to the Valparaiso Woman’s Club. For more information on the club, call 462-3876.

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:20AM



VALPARAISO — A longtime fixture in the Valparaiso community with a mission to help women in need is now in need itself.

The Valparaiso Woman’s Club, at 102 N. Washington St., was built in 1906 as a private residence and later provided housing to women college students. The former mansion was purchased by the club in 1924 and served as a social club but has evolved to provide low-cost housing for women through local social service agencies. The house made the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

But on Jan. 29, the furnace broke down and the nine women living there were forced to find temporary housing elsewhere. The club faces at least $35,000 in repairs for the furnace and connecting pipes. Insurance will cover some of the cost, but not all, and the club is scrambling to come up with the money for the repairs, said Mary Robison, president of the club’s board.

The matter is complicated by the fact that the club does not have not-for-profit status, so donations are not tax deductible. The club has been working with Valparaiso University to achieve 501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service, but that process is not yet complete.

“This is just devastating. This is way more than we can handle on our own,” Robison said, adding the club’s board of directors has gone to a bank and other agencies for assistance without luck so far.

The house has eight bedrooms and an apartment that are rented out, and another apartment for a caretaker. The club provides the rooms and one apartment for less than $300 a month to women who have received services at The Caring Place, a shelter for victims of domestic violence; Alice’s House, for women overcoming addiction; and the community corrections program PACT, among other agencies.

“We rent those rooms out to women in need who are referred to us by social service agencies,” Robison said, adding the house is always at capacity and has a waiting list. “This is their last stop before homelessness.”

Women live there for months or even years, said Mary Beth Schultz, executive director of The Caring Place, adding it has served as transitional housing for many of her agency’s clients.

Schultz, who recently joined the club because of the work it does, said the house serves as part of the fabric of the community.

“It would be a shame if they couldn’t get this resolved,” she said.

The Valparaiso Woman’s Club traces its start to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Reading Circle formed in 1895, according to historical records.



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