Some of the staff and volunteers of Mary & Martha House celebrate the opening of their new emergency housing in Southern Hillsborough County.

By Gwen Rollings

It was a community celebration on October 9 as the Mary & Martha House in Southern Hillsborough County welcomed community partners to tour its new emergency shelter, The Magnolia House.

Founded in 1982, the nonprofit, tax-exempt Mary & Martha House has been helping women and dependent children find a way out of domestic violence, homelessness and hopelessness.

Women throughout the decades have described the Mary & Martha House as a beacon of light leading them to safety, counseling, employment skill training and, most importantly, renewed hope for themselves and their children to obtain employment and move to permanent housing, which 92 percent achieve.

Laurie Herring, executive director of Mary & Martha House, said, “It just breaks my heart that we have to have this facility. It is just so needed. There are just not enough rooms. All the shelters in Hillsborough County are on overflow already.”

Many of the board members present reiterated the need for this new facility. Sandra Murman, Hillsborough County commissioner, said, “This is the only place people, women and children can go that have issues in South Hillsborough County.”

After the comments from speakers, many local businesses, including real estate, construction, a Florida chapter of a ladies’ motorcycle club, Wellspring Church and numerous individuals throughout the Tampa Bay area, expressed their commitment to Mary & Martha House by presenting Herring with financial donations.

Herring expressed her gratitude to everyone who contributed, noting that their generosity would assist with the approximately $100,000 still needed to furnish remaining rooms.

The tour guides were obviously proud as they led attendees through the brand-new building which will house 54 women and children for a few months at a time. The bedrooms are various sizes and able to accommodate a single woman or woman with a baby, up to larger rooms having enough beds for a woman with several children.

Herring said, “We have a large kitchen with many refrigerators so each family can have their own set of cabinets and their own set of refrigerators. That way cultures which may cook differently from one another are able to maintain a sense of normalcy within their unique family customs.”

The celebration brought together a community of volunteers, church leaders and friends from LeAnne’s Old Fashioned Cookies and many who have been blessed throughout the years by the work and dedication of Mary & Martha House.

To learn more, visit marymarthahouse.org. To donate, please call 645-7874.