The Open Shelter

Supporter Spotlight: Kathy Jackson

Kathy Jackson has been a generous and loyal supporter of The Open Shelter and those we serve for many, many years. Whether it is helping us for a special Holiday Event, urgent need, or just being there for our guests; Kathy has always come through for our mission of “Staying Behind With Those Left Behind”.

Tell us a little about yourself.  Where you grew up, your family, your interests.

I am originally from Pittsburgh and the oldest of 5 children. My parents were big on giving back through actions and service. I learned at an early age how it felt to connect with and meet people you might not have met within your own ‘bubble’. I moved to Columbus in 1988 when I married my husband. We have four grown daughters and a sweet 12-year-old pup. I enjoy baking, reading, long walks, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering!

My favorite quote is “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”-Anonymous

Kathy was selected as Grand Marshal of the 2021 Dublin Fourth of July Parade in recognition of her service to the community.
(Photo Credit: Shane Flanigan/This Week)

What motivated and inspired you to become involved with The Open Shelter?

As a family, we are big on giving back whether it is money, time, talent, or gifting items that are needed. We had donated money to The Open Shelter in the past as we appreciated the mission of those who come through the doors.

I never met Mary Beittel (former COO of The Open Shelter) but was fortunate to have met Kent Beittel (former Director of The Open Shelter) many years ago through a mutual friend. I loved Kent’s passion and the truth of what was happening in our city. I was impressed with what The Open Shelter was doing for all that came through the doors. Sometimes it was as simple as a hot meal or a listening ear. Other times, it was help with shelter, clothing, and basic needs.

Sheli Mathias (Director) knew every person and what they needed. Sarah Hatchard (Director Of Guest Services) is the calm that welcomes you openly. Harry Yeprem (Resource Development Director) was the quiet ‘doer’ bringing things in and out from sources in the city. And it was hard not to fall in love with Solomon Dean (Day Services Director). He had such a way with everyone who came through the doors. Sometimes it was tough love, other times, it was just a genuine hug filled with love.

Kathy with our Deputy Director of Day Services, Solomon Dean

On your trips to The Open Shelter, are there any of our guests that stand out to you that you have met?

I can’t say that any certain guest stands out but it certainly puts my day into perspective. I often learn more about myself and the people in our city when I stop and chat, Maybe it is a new momma showing me her sweet baby or maybe it’s someone who just got housing. Or maybe it’s someone who is just having a bad day and needs someone to say their name, that they can talk to, and someone to listen to them.  Each person I’ve met has always had a kind word to share. I have to say that some of the sweetest people stop by the shelter. Some don’t need anything but just a spot to sit and a loving heart to listen. I love it when I have extra goodies like candy or treats and they’ll all play like they are going to arm wrestle for it (there is always enough). But I do love it when I have something that just adds bonus joy like flowers or plants.

You and Jerome, our Donations Liaison, seem to have built a bond. 
Tell us a little about your friendship.

Jerome was one of the people that would come out to the cars to get items. At your previous location on Mound Street, it was quite a feat to get things inside. He was just so genuine and kind. He’d always ask how I was doing. And he was always so sweet about what I had to donate. He’d often laugh that my SUV was loaded front to back. He’d always ask how I got the items that I did. I told him that many people want to donate but don’t know where to go. I’d tell them that I would take the items. And that way, I got to see everyone.

You see, meeting the staff and volunteers at The Open Shelter just makes your heart happy. And Jerome just became a ‘best friend’. I can’t imagine not knowing him. I would do anything for him because I know he would do the same thing for me. He is just special!

Tell us about your involvement with I Support The Girls.

I am the Affiliate Director for I Support the Girls-Columbus (read that as a volunteer…lol). We are an international organization that collects and distributes new and gently worn (clean) bras, new underwear, and menstrual hygiene products. And we donate them to organizations such as schools, shelters, pantries, street outreaches, reentry programs, domestic violence programs, and a multitude of other organizations that might need these items. Columbus is a very generous city that believes in giving back.

We try to meet the needs of those who don’t have access or need a hand in getting these items. No one should have to decide whether to feed their family or to buy a box of pads. And it often comes down to that decision which then impacts their health in the long run.

We find that often students don’t come to school when they have their period because they don’t have access to some of these items. That means a student will miss over 30 school days because of a period. And that is not right. It is a volunteer of love and understanding as we have 4 daughters and I know the expense firsthand!

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