DUBUQUE – “When I first came into this house, I was afraid to even sit down on that toilet.”
Thomas Felton shows me all the changes that have been made to one of his most beloved places.
“It had been worn well…and it was time to freshen it back up,” he says.
It’s clear how much love he has for the place, and it makes sense, given his history.
“Actually, I was homeless at the Dubuque Rescue Mission Shelter [while frequenting the house],” says Felton. “Rick Mihm, the director of the Rescue Mission Shelter, approached me with an idea.”
That idea was to become the new manager of the Hope House.
The Dubuque house of hospitality, which has a storied history in its downtown location dating all the way back to 1997, found itself in a leadership transition this past July.
With that change, Felton was given the opportunity to fill a new role, and as soon as he did, he, along with several other volunteers who share a passion for the house, decided it was time for a renovation.
“It was ready for some repairs and maintenance so we took opportunity to do that this summer, and it looks amazing now,” says Mary Moody, who has been involved with the house its humble beginnings.
The changes were necessary, but house it doesn’t mean the house wasn’t sorely missed while it was closed down.
“A lot of people depended on the hospitality here and everything,” says Norman Atwood, a former Hope House resident and frequent volunteer.
The house hosts free community meals every Sunday and houses roughly 10 residents at once for varying lengths of time.
Those residents and visitors will have completely revamped places to dine and to stay, thanks to the two-month renovation process that is almost finished.
Moody and Felton run me through all the projects they tackled in just over 60 days.
“We have repainted almost everything entirely.”
“[We] cleaned out all the old furniture.”
“[We] cleaned carpets, changed over all of the curtains.”
They gave me just a few examples to match the freshly cleaned bedrooms, renovated chapel, and updated pantries.
“It’s through its dark period. It’s clean, it’s fresh, and it’s full of hope,” says Felton.
Before I go, Moody sits down at the piano and plays a few songs from a book resting on the stand in front of her.
It reminds Felton of a moment from just a few days prior.
“People…last Sunday came by and noticed we had a piano…and it really made me quite happy that someone sat down and played the piano.”
Felton stops to smile and take a breath, clearly touched by the moment.
“…This house needed to hear music again.”
It’s safe to say that Hope has been restored in more than one way.
“There’s hope. And that’s what we’re all about.”
The Hope House Grand Opening will take place Friday, September 28th from 7:00 to 9:30 PM. Felton and all the Hope House staff want to invite anyone and everyone to come share a meal, sing songs, and celebrate the reopening of this cherished house.
Ben Friedman is an anchor and co-executive producer for LCTV News. He is a junior at Loras College from Ankeny, Iowa. Ben enjoys LCTV because it gives him an opportunity to combine creativity and storytelling in a way that helps him provide value to the tri-state community.