Sunshine for Humanity Inc., a nonprofit organization which provides a place to stay for those experiencing homelessness in the area, is celebrating its 12th year in Eagle River this July.

To help celebrate, the organization is putting out a call for monetary donations to its “Feet Off the Street” campaign. Funds are accepted through this month and beyond to help pay for needed expansion projects at the shelter.

Sunshine for Humanity is the only homeless shelter in Vilas County and serves people from Vilas, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Forest counties.

According to Debbie Johnson, CEO of Sunshine for Humanity, plans are going forward to add a full kitchen, two bathrooms, two showers, and room to accommodate 12 beds to help those in need. 

“We open our hand and hearts to those in need. We need financial help as we do not receive federal or state funds,” Johnson said.

The campaign to raise the needed $200,000 came to a standstill once COVID-19 struck, while the need for living space stayed strong. Johnson said that over the winter of 2019 and spring of 2020, Sunshine for Humanity housed 41 residents, but she had to turn many away as the shelter was either full or because of the virus.  

Approximately 90 people utilize the shelter each year, with some staying for only a night and others staying for weeks. Johnson stressed that there is no time limit on how long people can stay.

“We help guests with disabilities (mental and physical), alcohol and drug issues, probation and parole, and many of our guests are successful in finding housing.”

In addition to providing shelter, Johnson also helps guests take steps to better their situation, including finding jobs or applying for disability. She also works with Housing and Urban Development Section 8 to find more permanent housing solutions.

While everyone is welcome to utilize the facility, there is a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drug use, and individuals with a conviction for a sexual crime will not be permitted.

So far, the organization has raised $50,000 of its $200,000 goal, in addition to

securing volunteer work from area contractors who have committed to perform some of the construction work as a donation.

A new septic system was installed in 2019, and Johnson is hopeful that expansion plans will begin in 2020, but they have faced delays. 

“Due to COVID-19 virus shutting down our communities, we were unable to raise enough money to continue with remodeling. We are not stopping — just postponed,” she said.

Alongside the shelter, the organization also runs a free-will store on the grounds which offers household items such as silverware, pots and pans, and more. Sometimes there are also home furnishings such as beds, appliances and other furniture available. Local grocery stores donate bakery and sweets on Fridays to the store.

All items, which are donated by community members, are offered free to those in need, but free-will donations are always gratefully accepted. Funds generated by the store help keep the Sunshine for Humanity facility running.

Sunshine for Humanity is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. All money donated stays at the shelter to help those in need and is tax-deductible. The shelter and store are operated completely with volunteers.

Anyone who would like to help Sunshine for Humanity celebrate its 12th year can send donation checks to: Sunshine for Humanity, P.O. Box 782, Eagle River, WI 54521.

Donations of both money and household items for the free-will store can be dropped off on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Credit card donations are also accepted in-store. 

Those with clean, working store item donations are asked to call ahead to make sure there is room to accept them.

Another way community members can lend help is by donating their aluminum cans. Bags of cans can be dropped off at all hours in the designated spot outside the shelter.

Items needed by the shelter currently include toilet paper, paper towels, Fabuloso household cleaner, Clorox wipes and standard white copy paper.

Sunshine for Humanity homeless shelter and the free-will store are located at 1191 Highway 45 S. 

For more information, call the office at (715) 477-2220 or visit sunshineforhumanity.com.