Does Our House work? Just talk to Mary Shue

One of the unsung heroes of the charity economy are the “alumni” who stay on active duty.

By Bobby Ampezzan
This article was published November 24, 2013 at 4:05 a.m.

One of the unsung heroes of the charity economy are the “alumni” who stay on active duty. To be clear, committed donors – many corporate – fund the good work, and paid staff putsthe money to good work, but nobody can sell it like a man, woman or child who can step up to the dais and say, “I needed help, and I got it, and now I’m the one offering help.”

So at Tie One On, the Dec. 5 fundraiser for the shelter for the working homeless, Our House, seek out Mary Shue. About five years ago she checked herself and her two young boys into a hotel on money given to her by a relative. She picked up a phone book and flipped to “Shelters.” After a couple of dead ends, Justin Sanders at Our House told her to c’mon in.

“He said, ‘C’mon.’ I said, ‘I have children.’ He said, ‘C’mon, we’ll talk.’”

Shue was in an abusive relationship, and frequently high on marijuana and benzodiazepines. Homelessness presented her a fork in the road, and she turned right. Our House, another fork, another right.

“Right away I felt relief, just the fact that they had children, that … there were people surrounding me, and even though they were strangers, it’s a place where people have come for some help.”

Among its benefits, Our House runs programs expressly for the children of Our House clients. Shue was jobless, and Our House requires clients to work. She had 14 days, and in that time, she got hired at Kroger. Our House requires clients to save money – in Shue’s case, as much as 75 percent of her paycheck, “which you can do because they provide toilet paper, and they provide meals there, so hopefully you have a little to sit on when you get out.”

“That is unique, as far as I know, to Our House.”

Shue was diagnosed with mental illness as a teenager. “When I started to comply and stay sober and take my medicine, and follow routine, everything smoothed out.

“At one point, I said, ‘I feel like I need to do something.’”

That’s the latest right turn – the favor returned or forwarded – and if there’s a course heading away from homelessness and addiction, she has locked on to it. Today, she’s a board member of Our House. She donates time to the shelter – she’ll be setting up for Tie One On that afternoon. She’s also a member of F.R.E.S.H. – Former Residents Educating Society on Homelessness.

“There’s always people making progress. I mean, it’s not perfect, but it’s a place to get a new beginning.”PEANUT BUTTER IMPERATIVE

Earlier this month, a local news release warned, “There is a peanut butter shortage at the North Pole.”

News releases so often read like a 3-year-old offering proof of unicorns. Even the ones I get for revolutionary new colanders or interview opportunities with adult film stars. The You-Won’t-Believe-This! tone overshoots the substance by a country mile.

But this one got better, and that’s why I bring it up: It’s a peanut butter drive for Arkansas Foodbank the same evening as Tie One On (and one week from Thanksgiving) at Advanced Health Spa, 615 Beechwood St. Take a jar, get a picture with Santa. Want into the Jumpy Castle? Take peanut butter. The spa is also donating a gift basket to raffle off for the Foodbank.

Why peanut butter? Well, first, if you were all ready to donate a frozen standing rib roast, the food bank wants to talk to you, (501) 565-8121.

Second, peanut butter is a kid-approved protein source and a good filler that requires no preparation and offers a very long shelf-life, says Tyler Lindsey, a spokesman with the charity. Why doesn’t the food bank have more of it?

“The cost of peanut butter has skyrocketed over the past few years which of course has created a trickle-down effect to us. Retail stores and manufacturers and distributors aren’t donating near as much these days, and public donations of it are down, too,” he says.

So, again, consider dropping a jar of peanut butter off at the spa, or the food bank itself, 4301 W. 65th St.

Incidentally, the first Thursday of the month is the Hillcrest merchants Shop ’N’ Sip, and there will be bands, food, drinks and shopping throughout the Bavarian-inspired hilltop hamlet.

And to the inventory manager at the Kroger literally across the street from the spa: Have peanut butter.


One of the most recognizable and sing-songable names in all of nonprofitdom is leaving us. Sharon Moone-Jochums, who heads up Easter Seals Arkansas, is calling it a career after nearly a quarter century. She’s only the third director in the entire 70-year history of Easter Seals in the capital city.

“We don’t turn over directors quickly,” she said.

“I thought I’d be here three years!” she also said.

When she began in 1991, the budget was about $3.5 million; today, it’s more than $20 million. When she began, they had two preschool classes; today, they have two preschools. When she began, Easter Seals operated one 10-person supervised home; today, it has 168 clients who receive services in many homes. In January, the operation opened a Training and Wellness Center on Cantrell Road and named it after her – the board’s decision, she’s quick to point out.

Because this is real life and not Lifetime, I want to point out that Moone-Jochums isn’t riding off into the sunset.Her mother has cancer and “I have been going back and forth to Florida to care for her and have realized I need to be where she is to provide some day-to-day support.”

She’s not leaving until August, though. The board has picked a search committee that includes her, and together, they hope to have a replacement in the spring.

Incidentally, I looked up Moone-Jochums’ 1997 High Profile cover story for the “One Word to Describe Me.” I was sure it would be “committed.”

It was “fortunate.”

High Profile, Pages 39 on 11/24/2013

Print Headline: Does Our House work? Just talk to Mary Shue

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