Quad-Citians found new treasures Saturday to fill their houses while supporting a long-time program that helps homeless families get back in a home.

Bargain shoppers made their way through aisles and aisles of household items, holiday decorations, clothes, quilts and furniture as Humility of Mary Housing Inc. held its Fall Fresh Start Benefit Sale. Proceeds from the two-day sale, which began Friday night, help fund the organization’s Transitional and Permanent Supportive Housing Program.

Sister Mary Ann Vogel, finance director, said the benefit sale — now held twice a year — began with a simple garage sale held by her mother 22 years ago. “It literally grew from her garage to her driveway to her whole yard,” she said of the sale, which for the past several years was held at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.

This marked the first fall sale the agency has hosted at its new headquarters at 3805 Mississippi Ave., Davenport.

Vogel, who is with the Congregation of Humility of Mary, said the initial sale was held just as HMHI was opening its doors to help single parents experiencing homelessness. “We used money from the first sale to buy materials for our first office,” she recalled.

Last year, the housing program moved out of its small, cramped storefront in east Davenport into its new facility, which includes modern offices, programming space as well as a spacious warehouse. The additional space has allowed the agency to expand the food pantry and neatly display all the donations it receives to use in its apartments and to give to its families.

“Our families just really enjoy this, they can shop here like they would in a store but for free,” she said of the area, which was off limits for the garage sale shoppers. “For the sale, we just bring out things we’re not going to be using.”

The donated items help furnish the 47 apartments HMHI owns for the transitional housing program. Focused on providing a stable home for one-parent homeless families, the program requires that the single parents — mothers and fathers — must be either improving their education or finding work.

“We’re not in this to be landlords, we’re in this to effect change in their lives and help them with whatever it was that got them to be homeless,” Vogel added. “The goal is to get them out (of the program).”

“We’re really working with two generations at once,” Vogel said, adding that both the parents and children are impacted. “We help the parent get situated and as they get a roof over their head and food on the table … then they can begin to work on other goals.”

For many, they may be separated from their children because of their housing situation. “If they get reunited, they can establish those family bonds. That filters down to the children.”

Vogel said the fresh start given to the parents has helped many children see other opportunities for themselves. “The very first child was 1 month old when her mother moved in,” she said, adding that the young woman now is a college graduate and student teaching.

It was meeting some of these families that helped prompt Vogel’s own mother, Gertrude, to hold her first benefit sale in 1990. The 92-year-old was on hand Saturday — as she is everyday — at the facility volunteering.

“I had a mini-sale at my house up until last year,” she said. “It comes a time when you have to give up things.”

While some shoppers were just drawn by a sale, many knew of the group’s mission before they arrived. “The volunteers are all good about telling them what this is about,” Sister Vogel said.

Ruth Petersen, who had a successful day shopping for a new bedspread, said she knew “a little” about the agency but was new to Davenport. “I think I should start bringing more of my stuff to donate here,” she said.

Shopping at her first Fresh Start sale was Tootie Skelley, of Davenport, who was buying a big gift bag to carry all her garage sale finds. She likes to support “anything that benefits the homeless or the poor.”

Donations needed

Humility of Mary Housing Inc. accepts donations of household items for use by the families it serves in its transitional housing program. Items it has the biggest demand for are: twin beds, dressers, sofas, small kitchen tables and chairs, and paper products.

To donate or for more information, call 563-326-1330 or visit www.humilityofmaryhousing.com.

By the numbers

Humility of Mary Housing Inc.

22 — Years that Humility of Mary Housing Inc. has provided housing and supportive services for single-parent families experiencing homelessness

711 — Families who have been served since it began

1,394 — Children who have been served during those years

74 — Parents served this year to date

140 — Children served this year to date

16 – Age of the youngest parent

70 percent — Of the parents served in 2012, this many were age 22 or younger

15 — The median length, in months, families have stayed in the program in 2012

94 percent — Percentage of families leaving the program this year who increased their education and/or job training skills

47 — Number of apartments (in 15 locations) used to provide transitional housing.

$35 — Amount it costs a day to serve one family in the program.

Source: Humility of Mary Housing Inc.

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