Lighthouse Refuge raising funds to open Refuge House

OKEECHOBEE — Lighthouse Refuge is in the process of revamping a house donated to them by the county in 2016, and they could use the community’s help, said Director Donna Dean.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Donna and Larry Dean have been helping women of Okeechobee through Lighthouse Refuge for over 20 years.

Lighthouse Refuge Inc. has been a part of Okeechobee for the last 20 years. When Mrs. Dean first moved to Okeechobee, she spent some time volunteering at Martha’s House and soon after, she felt God calling her to begin a work in Okeechobee as well. This work would be similar, she explained, but would be more long-term.

These women would stay anywhere from a few months to a year. When Mrs. Dean and her husband, Larry, first started out, they opened their own home to the women, letting them stay in their guest room as they got back on their feet. In 2016, she heard about a house the county was trying to sell at auction and asked the commissioners if they would donate it to her to use, because she and her husband had moved to an area that is restricted to seniors and could no longer allow young women to stay in their home. The commissioners agreed, and now, they are working on getting it ready to open. The house needs the air conditioning overhauled and some other repairs. They also need to get insurance on it. It has taken them a little longer to get the house ready to open than they expected due to a surgery and some other health issues, said Mrs. Dean.

Lighthouse Refuge offers programs to counsel women with emotional issues as well as educational skills programs related to computer skills, homemaking skills, college courses, job training and money management. Mrs. Dean said the only real requirements are that the person must be a woman and must want help. They are not all victims of abuse, and they are not all homeless. The thing they all have in common is they need someone to offer them a helping hand, and that is what God called her to do, she explained.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
This is the house the county of Okeechobee donated to Lighthouse Refuge. It will soon be used to help women who have fallen on hard times in Okeechobee.

There have been many success stories over the years, she said. “Some have gone off to college. If they want to get their GED, they can do that. If they just want to learn to sew on a button, we can teach them that, too.” They have volunteers, who work at the bank, ready to come in and teach the girls how to save money, she said. They help them get jobs.

Mrs. Dean can also be heard on WOKC radio once a month.

Lighthouse Refuge is networking with Real Life Children’s Ranch, and if any women come in with children, the children can stay at the ranch while their moms stay at the Lighthouse. Moms and children will still be able to see each other during this time, she said.

Mrs. Dean has offered support groups for women for many years.

“Our main goal is to help them see there is hope for them,” she said. Mrs. Dean has been through a lot of things herself. She was abused when she was growing up, and she received help to get through that, she said. The Deans moved to Florida, and the jobs they thought they had were gone when they got here, and they ended up homeless for three years. “I know what it is to be homeless,” she said. Mr. Dean finally was able to get a job, and they got back on their feet.

While they were homeless, God led her to begin writing books, she said. The first one she wrote was called A Merry Heart. “It’s a Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of thing.” She just finished a second book.

Mrs. Dean can be reached at lighthouserefuge99@hotmail.com or by calling 863-801-9201.

Donations can also be mailed to Lighthouse Refuge Inc., P.O. Box 2573, Okeechobee, Florida 34973.

At this time, they are selling bricks for their walkway to raise money, too. There are two different size bricks. One is 4×8 for $100 donation and one 8×8 for $225. “You can put anything you want on it,” she said. “In memory of somebody, whatever they want on it, they can put on it.” You can even order a donor brick with felt backing to keep for yourself. 4×8 is $35 and 8×8 is $40. Their fundraising goal is $50,000. This will help with not only the repairs and things like that, but also with the operating costs.

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