Our greatest wish is that your new year is off to a joyful and peaceful start. As a new year begins, we want to take a moment to reflect and recognize the transformative year we’ve had at Nest Community Shelter and share our vision for our organization in 2024.
Of all the years I have served this organization, I believe this was our shelter’s most transformative year yet. As we look back at this year of incredible growth, the birth of dynamic partnerships, and leadership through strategic vision, I am humbled at all our small shelter has accomplished in 2023. We entered 2023 as The Michigan City Chamber’s- Lakefront Career Network’s Spotlight Organization for the year. Throughout the year, the Lakefront Career Network brought volunteers, held multiple fundraisers, and grew awareness of our shelter in an immeasurable way. We are so grateful to all who came out to support these events, the LCN, and the Michigan City Chamber for their unwavering support in 2023.
2023 was also a year of transformation and fostering partnerships. Our beloved building underwent incredible renovations this year to ensure that our building remained weather-tight and comfortable for our guests. We saw new windows donated and installed through partnerships with Tonn & Blank, who matched a challenge grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte to make new windows possible. Our renovations didn’t stop there. A new roof was generously donated by GAF and installed by Korellis Roofing after receiving a generous grant from Howmet Aerospace. Numerous community volunteers stepped up throughout this past year to keep our building functional and beautiful. Our men’s floor was officially dedicated to honor our founders, Dorothy Miller and Nancy Bracken, this past fall as a lovely way to celebrate their dedication to our organization.
However, our most significant transformation came in late 2023 as we renamed our beloved organization from Interfaith Community Pads to Nest Community Shelter. The name Nest was carefully chosen to more closely represent what our shelter does; it serves as a refuge, a place of nourishment and healing. Much like a bird in a nest, our shelter is a temporary home until our guests are well enough to venture to homes of their own. With this strategic rebrand of our shelter, we celebrated this milestone by having an open house and ribbon-cutting event in partnership with the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce. With this new name, we were able to close out the year with our holiday giving campaign that not only met its fundraising goals but exceeded them.
As important as all of these things are for the organization’s continued health and growth, we want to show how our organization grew in the past year by sharing some inspiring numbers with you:
Our numbers reflect the year of incredible growth, determination, partnership, and hard graft by staff, volunteers, community partners, and our guests that we had in 2023. Throughout all of this growth, I am so pleased to share that our average length of stay remains around the 40-day mark, with the housing rate staying steady at between 40-41%.
As transformative as 2023 was, we recognize that with this growth, so much more is expected from our organization. As our shelter grows, so does our need for staff, volunteers, and supplies to meet the needs of our unhoused neighbors, community members, and friends. This new year, we are focusing on staffing our facility, which poses a significant challenge. The need for staff is paramount but brings its own challenges. While we regularly apply for grants and are often successful in winning them, grant money cannot be used for staffing costs. One of our most significant goals this year is to continue to raise the funds and use the funds raised in our holiday fundraiser to fill the position of an assistant executive director. This additional role acts as an insurance policy for our organization, ensuring continuity of care for Nest and her guests. With hope and determination, this new year will also see the growth of our Flight School program, which pairs newly-housed guests with a continuous support network, ensuring the continued success of our guests remaining housed.
In 2024, we have also grown our board of directors and are honored to welcome three incredible women who bring many years of experience in nonprofit service to our board. Our greatest wish is that 2024 continues to see impactful partnerships with local organizations, our business community, and government organizations so that we may grow sustainably and bring much-needed services to our guests. One such example took place in January of this past year with the Indiana State Board of Health, which set up the first vaccine clinic of its kind for one day and offered both COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines to any guests that wanted them, free of charge.
In closing, we want to thank our entire community for wrapping their arms around our small but mighty shelter so that we can effect change that lasts for generations through their support. It is my greatest hope in the new year that we can grow sustainably, welcome more community volunteers, raise much-needed funds, and grow our staff in the new year, but most importantly, we can continue our mission to serve our guests with dignity, dedication, and determination in this year.
Nest Executive Director