Still full of hope

Warming shelter open to all is still going strong

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Al Willette, a volunteer at the Ignite Hope warming center, takes a break on one of the cots while having a conversation Friday night.

POST FALLS - Surrounded by cold, dark and mostly empty industrial warehouses, there is a light. It's the light from a doorway leading into a warm, bright warehouse that is full of people.

On this recent night, around 50 people have checked into Ignite Hope for the night. It's the only warming shelter in the greater Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls area that is open every night during the winter, to anyone, in any condition.

A variety of mothers, fathers, children, veterans, and even a man who is walking across America are scattered among sleeping bags, clothes and boxes. There are musicians, artists and a former meteorologist for the U.S. Air Force.

Near the entrance, teenagers and college students gather, gesticulating their stories and laughing.

A white lab named River eats scraps of food that have fallen from a card table covered in casseroles. Two volunteers greet people checking in for the night while guitar music wafts in between friendly conversation.

Ignite Hope opened in November 2011.

As a grassroots shelter run by everyday people, Ignite Hope provides shelter, meals and comfort to the homeless. Thanks to the generosity of a private donor from Real Life Ministries, the building was made available.

Volunteers from Real Life and other churches prepare meals daily and offer Bible studies and prayer. Ignite Hope was formed by the hands of a few individuals determined to make their beliefs into reality.

What sets Ignite Hope apart is its vision of hope for humanity.

"The idea of healing a community comes from giving hope," says volunteer Patty McGruder. "People have lost their purpose in community because of so many distractions. Yet the greatest feeling of all comes from helping someone. You can't buy hope. Hope requires people."

People like spending time at Ignite Hope.

"It's very spiritual in here. I feel joyous and free when I come here," said volunteer Candice Cross. "I find it refreshing because I can give back what has been given to me."

The impact of Ignite Hope on the community is already yielding results.

"Resources have truly helped me and my family," says Patrick Augerlavoie. "We've done a complete 180."

Patrick once lived a life dictated by addiction, imprisonment and poverty. Now, Patrick is starting his own business, volunteers at Ignite Hope, and recently helped an at-risk family get into a hotel for a few days.

"You come in here and you feel loved, safe and wanted," says Augerlavoie. "It's a whole community coming together to help people."

People can change. Augerlavoie and his family are proof.

"It's truly awesome when you know what you can accomplish when the help is there," he says. "If it wasn't for the love in this community, we wouldn't be where we are at now. We're at a totally new level of a good life now."

As a volunteer and resident, Sandra Avery understands how everyone can individually have a role in helping people. For a while, she looked after the children at Ignite Hope, picking up and coddling crying babies in the middle of the night. She said one man always brought laughter; another the gift of music. One time, she said a man wrote a letter with the most beautiful penmanship she'd ever seen.

"A lot of them are just in a bad situation - they're between a rock and a hard place," says Avery. "We have mini miracles here that keep us going. People find courage here, courage to speak up for themselves or to listen."

To volunteer at Ignite Hope, call Director of Volunteer Services Natalie Forsyth at 660-4675. To donate food, clothing or sleeping bags, call outreach worker James Otten at 208-625-1000. Ignite Hope is located at 601 E. Seltice Way in Post Falls.

Patrick Augerlavoie, right, and his wife Carrie received assistance through various programs and now give back by volunteering their time at the Ignite Hope warming shelter.

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