DEWITT — About 50 people gathered at the old Winsther Motel to celebrate a brand new use for DeWitt’s longtime staple.
Life Connections Peer Respite Services purchased the property — and an adjoining home — in April to serve as a nonprofit office as well as its second-generation, peer-run respite home.
Rhonda’s original home was located behind Genesis Medical Center in DeWitt. Genesis also owned the property, which provided refuge for three people at a time for up to seven days. Since its opening in 2018, the house has provided a safe place and a comfortable bed for 288 people who needed a mental reset, an escape from a bad situation or a solution to a number of problems.
Last year, Genesis officials announced they needed the property to carry out expansion plans, so director Todd Noack and Life Connections began scouting for the next location for Rhonda’s House, and eventually, they found him along 11th street.
Noack said buying the property is the fundamental next step in the nonprofit’s mission: “To create wholesome opportunities to advance hope, recovery, and well-being for all.”
Before cutting the ribbon for the new location, Noack addressed the crowd, which included local elected officials, medical professionals and community developers.
“There is one person who was a resident (Rhonda’s House) over two years ago who now lives in DeWitt and uses our recovery facility,” Noack said. “That’s what it’s all about: changing lives. Let’s get rid of the band-aids and start healing from within, and that’s what we want to accomplish.
Rhonda’s House works with organizations around DeWitt, including civic clubs, the DeWitt Referral Center and the DeWitt Fitness Center, to provide resources for residents of the house.
The property includes a five-bedroom house that can provide respite for two more people than the previous house. The structure also offers multiple bathrooms, large common areas for camaraderie, and a finished basement with private meeting spaces and a game room.
The yard is also larger than Rhonda’s original house on Hospital Drive. George the pet rabbit is included in the yard, which house manager Ed Murphy says will help lift the spirits of those left at home.
The purchase of the property was made possible in part by the $300,000 allocated by the Mental Health and Disability Region of Eastern Iowa.
Noack also thanked Genesis Philanthropy and Genesis Medical Center for their organizational support, especially during the early years of the Rhonda’s House project.
“(Executive Director of Genesis Philanthropy) Missy Gowey, Genesis Philanthropy supported us, and Genesis of DeWitt supported us for three years with the (old) house, and there it is, moving,” Noack told the crowd during of the inaugural event. . “These are the people who are the seed of the garden, and now the garden is coming to fruition with each of you, the region and the state (officials)… They see the importance of this.”
Nick Joos is the editor of the DeWitt Observer.