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,