This year’s SVSU Battle of the Valleys (BOV) charity is Saginaw’s Mustard Seed shelter.
The charity is a homeless shelter that seeks to provide emergency services, employment opportunities, educational life skills training to women on the brink of homelessness.
Leona Sullivan began the shelter in the early 1990s after seeing the needs of women who were about to become homeless.
Sullivan called her friends Jeanne Coallier and Rosalie Riegle to help her create the shelter. They pooled their resources, bought a house and invited homeless women into it by 1995.
“Since then, we have welcomed over a thousand women through our doors,” said Amy Roe, a Mustard Seed staffer. “In 2002, we obtained a different house which also let us invite children.”
The Mustard Seed shelter’s continuous growth also means that the shelter’s needs have continued to grow.
“We are always in need of volunteers to help with the everyday happenings of the shelter,” Roe said. “To provide transportation, to listen, to help connect with resources, to help with odd jobs even.”
The shelter also needs financial support, too, since it relies on private donors to finance its growth.
“We are going to be more than doubling our capacity,” Roe said. “We are going to be adding on 3,500 square feet to our existing building.”
Besides expanding its building, the shelter also hopes to expand its existing relationship with SVSU.
“There’s going to be the opportunity for student organizations, faculty organizations and different university programs to be involved in the actual building of the project,” Roe said. “We also hope to have two staff rooms in the new building. It is our goal to have one of those bedrooms be filled at all times by a Saginaw Valley student.”
This student would most likely be in the social work program and would help assist the shelter in exchange for room and board.
The charity’s mission and connections to SVSU made it a prime candidate for BOV.
The Mustard Seed shelter shares SVSU’s enthusiasm for the growing partnership between themselves and the university.
“We’re in the business of helping to change lives,” Roe said. “What a better way than to partner with a university which is full of young people who are becoming educated and going to be the next generation of people who make a difference in our world.”