Lily Sparrow House needs community support

There are many places in our society where you are made to feel like a thing. It is especially true if you are a woman who is suddenly homeless — and not feeling very good about yourself anyway.

The Lily Sparrow House in Owatonna is a place where you’ll be welcomed, encouraged, comforted, and given a hand up to the next step. You’ll be treated for who you are — a person beloved by God. You and your children.

Here, where there is a resident grandma (and she has cookies), you can get a fresh start. For the time being, this is your home. You have an address, a phone, a bed, food, and people who understand and care.

Most guests are able to get their own place and move on within a few months. Sometimes it takes only a few weeks, or even a few days. When they leave, they’re sometimes back in touch with people at this homey, helpful place. Because they haven’t been in a shelter. They’ve been in a kind of live-in support group.

Understand, it’s not all sweetness and light. We’re talking about what most of us aren’t very good at — living with other families. And each person’s, each family’s need is different. But what they have in common is that they’re going through one of the most difficult times in their lives. This can build bonds.

“It’s really a delight to see how the women and their kids start to support and encourage one another,” says Nancy Keith, who has been the resident house mother from the start in 2008. “And it’s fun when some of them come back and stay connected and let us know how they’re doing. They are deeply grateful to the community for this help in their time of need. “

The heart of what we do is to encourage responsible, personal relationships. This is possible in part because the houses are totally private. We are not beholden to the government, to foundations, or to distant corporations. So there are no bureaucratic hoops to navigate. We function person to person, family to family.

Having already served more than 200 women and children, our vision is to continue helping these neighbors in the name of Jesus. This is a work we feel God has called us to, and we go forward on faith.

Last March 1, after a year or so of having to turn away women and children in need, we were able to get access to a second house, which sits backyard-to-backyard with our first house. (Do you believe in miracles?) So Lily Sparrow on Broadway (345 E.) and Lily Sparrow on Main (346 E.) function as one unit, connected by a walkway.

In these last months both houses have been full, with a total of about 20 women and children. Understandably, expenses have essentially doubled. And more families are coming to us, partly because some government supports for needy people have been cut. This is a challenge for all of us.

Gifts from churches, individuals and community groups have been generous indeed. But right now, we need extra funds. If you can make a contribution, or if you can pledge a monthly amount, it will be an important help for these families. Please send checks or bring your donation to the Lily Sparrow House at the address below.

We all hope for the day when no child and no family will lack a stable home. In the meantime, we’re committed to maintaining a place in this community where they will be welcomed and treated as the precious people they are.

The Rev. Jack and Virginia Bulver Miller work with the Lily Sparrow House and may be reached at P.O. Box 87, Millville MN 55957 (507) 798-2408. The Lily Sparrow Support Group may be reached at 345 E. Broadway, Owatonna 55060 (507) 451-9093.

The Rev. Jack and Virginia Bulver Miller work with the Lily Sparrow House and may be reached at P.O. Box 87, Millville MN 55957 (507) 798-2408. The Lily Sparrow Support Group may be reached at 345 E. Broadway, Owatonna 55060 (507) 451-9093.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com