Saturday, February 24, 2024

Beacon Minute 2/24/24


Beacon Minute

On Saturday, March 2, 2024, friends of our shelter will be putting on the largest event we've done in a very long time. This event was the brainchild of myself and Anita Dearhamer, to help out our friend Cindy Pohlman while she was the Director. Without Anita's help, none of this would be possible. Thankfully, so many others have stepped up to the plate to help us as well. I will formally thank everyone after the event, along with sponsors and donors. I have been helping too, but since starting as the Director I have had so many things to get going again. 

As I have mentioned before, I have now moved people into hotels, into our shelters, and most notably we've had four families move into housing. One family didn't need as much for household items, but the other three did. That means we had three dining room tables and chairs, three couches, three plus rocking chairs, three microwaves, three houses with multiple beds and bedding, and the list goes on, go to new homes. 

All of this is made possible by the generous donations of your used goods, financial support, and Amazon purchases for our shelter houses and our families. THANK YOU! 

YES! We are taking donations. At the end of 2023 we were not, but my moto is, I'll take what you are willing to give and put it to good use. We have families in need, and we can help them with your donations. A few days ago, we actually used our last donated twin bed and frame, and a week ago we used our last couch and tables. Thankfully, a few of you have offered tables! And we had a blessing of a call that offered us many items, including 6 twin mattresses with box springs and frames. Thank you for answering the call of my requests, AND thank you for calling or messaging even when you're not sure if we need or will take what you have. (And if I missed your calls or forgot about you, I am truly sorry! Just know that I have taken so many calls and messages, and it certainly is almost a job by itself to take the donations!)

I really hope you can come out to our event next Saturday. It should be a lot of fun with good music, lots of soup choices-and you can try them all-delicious deserts, charcuterie boards, great art to bid on, many baskets and items to win by raffle, and a 50/50 raffle. You can see many items that will be raffled at the event link. More items will be coming. If you bring a specific item from Amazon or Walmart, you can get extra tickets to the raffle items. See the post on our event page about which items to bring.  

Come on out to Tee Away Golf & Events. The event runs from 4-8pm. Meal starts right away, live auction of art starts at 6pm, and drawing for baskets & items starts at 7:30pm. 

Here is the link to our Amazon Wishlist:                                                            

Please enjoy this beautiful song. This is why I am here doing what I am doing. Every one of us is light. We are also not all the things that can hold us back. Clients of the shelters are often at various stages of trauma. Self-sufficiency is a process, especially when facing mental and physical issues, often along with addictions or other self-harming or self-sabotaging behaviors. But with your support, encouragement, gifts, donations, etc. we are able to offer our clients hope and the belief that they too, are LIGHT- they are not the mistakes they made, or what their family did, or the brokenness inside. THEY ARE DIVINITY DEFINED! 

It is the truth of who we ALL are! May we all be a blessing to one another! 💚💜💛💙

Erin Webster, Executive Director

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Beacon Minute 2/11/24


Beacon Minute

"All In is a multi-year, interagency road map for a future when no one experiences the tragedy and indignity of homelessness--and everyone has a safe, stable, accessible, and affordable home."

This past week I was at a two-day conference with other providers in what we call the Balance of State Continuum of Care. It was a good opportunity to learn from experts in the field of homelessness encompassing initial contact to permanent housing and after care. It was a good opportunity to meet new people, network, make plans to visit and learn more about specific shelters, and learn about things like All In.

During my time at the conference, there were notable quotes. One is from the video that I will share at the end. 

Tomorrow evening, I will be speaking at the Ladysmith City Council meeting. Before I became the director, the Lighthouse board sent a letter to the City of Ladysmith asking for some financial support for the shelters. My understanding is that it has been discussed once with little support, maybe even a second time. Tomorrow will be the second or third time.

I heard some of the reasoning that councilmen were against the funding was that the shelters aren't in the City. Which, TECHNICALLY, is true. But the shelters are only just out of the city limits. Beyond that, many, many people that have been housed at the shelters are people that have been in the City needing shelter. And even beyond that, is the reality that all communities in our County need to be aware and part of the solution to end homelessness. 

"Just because someone does not have a house, does not mean they're not a voter. And just because someone can't vote because they've been disenfranchised, doesn't mean that you don't represent them." Richard Crews.

That's powerful! I wrote it down when I heard it at the conference.

I hope to use my influence to bring people to the table of inclusion for all people in our communities. My goal is to ensure that we don't allow our governmental leaders to dismiss those on the fringe of society and those already disenfranchised. There's nothing more important than our elected leaders making decisions for all people; not only those that vote, or have jobs, or can afford housing.

Without housing, people are unlikely to make other positive changes in their lives. People often don't want to interview for jobs if they don't have access to a shower and clean clothes, while homeless. Statistics show that positive outcomes happen when people are placed in housing first. Housing first offers services at the same time and continued after housing. 

Homelessness is a life and death issue, not a crime to be solved. Criminalization can cost 3 times more than housing. We need to work at moving our system from punitive to prevention. 

Katie Bement, Embrace Executive Director, said at the event, "The less one has, the less one has to do to be incarcerated."

"All In is the Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, which set a bold goal to reduce homelessness by 25% by 2025 and ultimately build a country where every person has a safe and affordable home. It encourages state and local governments to use the plan as a blueprint for developing their own strategic plan and for setting their own ambitious goals for 2025. The plan is built around six pillars: three foundations--Equity, Data and Evidence, and Collaboration--and three solutions--Housing and Support, Crisis Response, and Prevention." You can view the implementation plan and guidance pate at the following link:

Erin, Executive Director

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Beacon Minute 2/4/24

 Beacon Minute

This week a lot of new things have happened! Well, new things for me, as I come upon nearly 4 weeks since taking over as the new director.

Since the passing of both our director and grant writer in November, the board had a lot of responsibility in stabilizing the clients and the houses.

Last week, I was able to put a couple we were sheltering in a local hotel, into one of the shelter homes. This is a much-needed change for them, and they hope to be moving into permanent housing very, very shortly. For them, this is a very temporary stop along the way to achieving permanent housing for their family.

I am happy to report that one of our clients called me a few days ago and said that she was able to sign a lease and would be moving into permanent housing. This too is a milestone on her journey and allows her to bring her family back together.

Another couple that we had in a hotel, was not able to get into our shelter due to having a larger dog and the shelters are full. But they too, were able to secure permanent housing for themselves. They moved into their apartment on Friday.

So recently, I've put people into local hotels, moved new clients into our shelter, moved a client out of our shelter, and moved two families into permanent housing.

None of this happens by flicking a wand or snapping our fingers! Much of it is done by me under specific guidelines for shelters and under confidentiality.

But over the past weeks I have been learning the process and requirements that it takes to do these things. It is apparent that none of this happens without grants and the support, financially and in goods donated, but also in the volunteer hours, from people in our community that care about the mission of the Lighthouse Shelter and housing the homeless in our community with the goal of permanent housing for them.

Over this time, so many have answered my call for paper goods, cleaning supplies, personal care items, and new towels and linens. Many of you have sent us monetary donations. 

THANK YOU! Again, I can’t say enough how grateful we are for your help with our mission.

For a long time, we have accepted donations of used furniture, household supplies, home decor, and clothes. Your home furnishings allow us to furnish a person’s or family’s new home with things they almost certainly are still not able to fully provide for themselves because of the transitional time they are in.

This weekend we gave four twin beds and one full bed, along with bedding for all of those and one more full-sized bed, all because of the generous donations from people like you. We also gave two couches and two dining tables with chairs. We also provided things like pots and pans, coffee makers, microwaves, dishes and silverware. For the people moving out soon, we reserved a kitchen table and chairs, a couch, and a bed. What a wonderful gift!

Logistically this all is a lot to take care of. First, it requires being able to take in donations and keep them organized. Second, it means keeping an appropriate amount of inventory of much needed items. Third, it takes strong, able-bodied people to get items from donors, to storage, to a permanent home.

As you can see, there’s lots of moving parts. After overseeing the process this weekend, I have a better idea of what’s needed to ensure a good use of people’s time and resources.

We need volunteers! Are you available one or two days to accept donations and keep our locations organized? Are you available to move big items like furniture? Some may need to be picked up and brought to our storage, some will need to be delivered to clients’ homes.

If you are interested in volunteering to help those in need, I’d love to talk with you! Over time I will probably think of other volunteer opportunities. If you have any ideas of things you could help with, I’d love to hear your ideas. Your time and energy are priceless to our organization.

This past week brought families back together, into homes they can be proud of and that allows them to work towards bigger and better things for themselves. Your help, in all forms, ensures we can provide what they need, so they can set and reach new goals!

P.S. We are getting low on the following furniture: beds (twin and full are our favorites, but queens are good as well), REALLY, REALLY low on box springs of all sizes (we know, people keep them when upgrading mattresses), kitchen sized tables with chairs, couches, and rocking chairs/recliners. Send us a Facebook message or email ( with a picture of what you have!

Erin, Executive Director

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Beacon Minute 1/28/24

 Beacon Minute

At the end of my first week as director, our unseasonably "warm" weather was predicted to take the biggest dive, for the longest period of time. This also caused me to receive my first phone calls from people needing shelter from the severe cold. Don't take this wrong. The weather the days before weren't pleasant for those calling. But somehow, they were trying to survive in whatever conditions they came from. 

Some people had a little heat, but not enough to keep their space warm in the coming cold snap. Some were trying to live in a camper with no heat, others in a tent, and yet another on our city streets. Our shelters were full, and all we were left with was emergency shelter in local hotels.

This past year we have heard and seen many of our local elected officials make decisions regarding housing in our communities from a place of ignorance or misunderstanding. 

Many of our clients and those who call for help have a variety of issues that are contributing to their homelessness and needing shelter from the harsh winter (or any other season). But no one's homelessness is solved by just getting a job. 

Homelessness is complicated and nuanced. And oftentimes the ways to tackle the issues within a community is complicated and nuanced. That's where the Lighthouse Shelter comes in to play.

The Lighthouse and many partners working together can try to combat the many reasons why people experience homelessness, by helping them gain emergency shelter and finally obtain permanent housing. 

Those partners require resources and a commitment to a mission to housing those in need of shelter. 

The Lighthouse operates in the Rural North Coalition, which is under Wisconsin Balance of State Continuum of Care umbrella. The following short video is a good look at some of the issues we are facing as a non-profit with a mission of helping those needing housing. The unhoused is the largest since 2012, and the problem is growing. 

With partners like you in our community, we are able to help even more. Over the past several weeks I have witnessed many of you send us packages and deliver donations. THANK YOU! I truly am in awe that so many have answered the call for supplies and household necessities. Things most of us expect and take for granted, others have a hard time providing for themselves at certain points in their lives. 

The more we all partner together and the more mental health and addiction services available, the more likely we are able to see lasting positive outcomes with clients at the Rusk County Lighthouse Homeless Shelters. Please watch the video for a glimpse of what the homeless and those trying to house them face in Wisconsin. 

Thank you for joining me for this Beacon Minute!

Erin,                                                                                                                                                   Executive Director

Monday, January 8, 2024


                           Connie Hanson                                                                   Cindy Pohlman

When Erin asked me to write a few memories of Connie and Cindy, I initially had a hard time coming
up with specific things that would show how devoted these two women were to the mission of the

It would probably help to write about how LeRoy and I became involved in the first
place. LeRoy has always been the type of person who likes to be involved in helping others. When
he was asked to serve on the Lighthouse Board, he immediately said yes. I was still working full
time, but when I retired, I joined him on the Board. 

It was at this time that I first met Connie and Cindy. I was immediately impressed by their sincerity and total commitment to the mission of the Lighthouse to provide aide and assistance to the homeless and near homeless here in Rusk County.

It is hard to separate the two as they were so much of like mind in their compassion for the those
who found themselves in need of our help. No problem or situation was too big or too difficult for
them to take on. Connie was a remarkable person in her devotion to the Lighthouse. I know that
she spent hours of her own time in seeking funding, and in trying to raise awareness among the
local businesses and citizens. She would readily accept the opportunity to speak to any group,
at any time, about our mission and the tremendous need for our program. Cindy was always
involved in whatever job needed to be done, from creating a Facebook page to coming up with
handouts and flyers to carry our message.

When Connie’s health began to deteriorate, Cindy stepped up to take on some of the duties that Connie could no longer do. When Connie and the board made the decision for her step down as the Executive Director but continue to write grants, Cindy chose to interview for the position, and the Lighthouse Board hired her. She worked tirelessly for over a year to learn the ins and outs of the day-to-day operations, the requirements, and reports needed to continue receiving several of the grants that we rely on to keep us running. 

Sadly, Connie’s health continued to deteriorate to the point where she was no longer able to be very much help to Cindy, who continued to work tirelessly to make sure that we could keep our program
running. Things were finally starting to come together, when Connie passed away. Little did we
know that we would also lose Cindy within just a few days. 

I am crying as I type this as I still can’t believe that two such remarkable women are gone. But I am also feeling confident and somewhat in awe at the legacy they left behind. There are hundreds of people that have been helped by their kindness and commitment to the Lighthouse Homeless Shelter. LeRoy and I are proud to have worked with them both and know that they laid a strong foundation for us to stand on as we begin this new chapter. 

I am excited for what the future holds as I know that we have a new Executive
Director in Erin Webster who will use that foundation to take us to new and successful places that
will continue to help those in need. 

Connie and Cindy will be missed. But I know that they are with us in spirit, and we are grateful for all that they did for the Lighthouse. Rest in Peace Connie and Cindy! 

Judy and LeRoy Opsal

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Good Evening Rusk County & Friends!
I am pleased to say that after some head scratching and thoughtfulness, I have been able to get logged into our Facebook page and this website. I sure appreciate the help I have received from some really good friends of the shelter. 

The loss of two integral employees of this small organization- at the same time- put everything in a tail-spin for a few minutes. A few board members picked up the pieces and held it together for the past few months. Their transition wasn't easy, but here we are. 

My name is Erin Webster, and I am excited to be the Executive Director of the Lighthouse Shelter. This is my first jump in to the non-profit, social service sector, but I am eager to get to know more of you in the community and the partners that will help us here at the Lighthouse Shelter meet our mission!

Over the next several months there will be a lot to learn and to do to get settled in with this new role. I am excited to stabilize this important organization. I am also excited to see it grow. The need of emergency housing, whether very short-term or longer-term, is a growing need with-in our community and in most communities in this nation. 

This organization, like most in our communities, exits only because members like you believe that it should. I ask that you support us. Consider a donation by check or PayPal. Maybe you are able to give a recurring monthly donation. When you are replacing household items, consider us for your old items that are in good condition. Check out our Donate tab to see what items we always need. Tell your friends and neighbors about our mission. 

Feel free to call, text, or e-mail me with questions or concerns! Do you want to volunteer? Do you have a group that looks to help organizations like ours? E-mail me!

Let's work together to address the varied needs of homeless people in Rusk County.

Best Regards,

Monday, April 4, 2022

Thank you AMVET Post 127 for your very generous donation to the Lighthouse shelters! Your donation allows us to continue helping homeless people in our community. Thank you for your continued support!!!