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First Step Center for Domestic Services funding troubles, threatens to close doors

The 35-year-old nonprofit in Fostoria is in danger of closing it's doors for good, due to lack of funding. Meaning hundreds could lose access to nearby help.

FOSTORIA, Ohio — The 35-year-old nonprofit, First Step Center for Domestic Services, located in Fostoria is in danger of closing it's doors for good, due to lack of funding.

The organization's President, Amy Kinney, said before COVID, they suddenly lost their Executive Director of 30 years. While grieving the loss of such a dear and important part of their lives and organization, the pandemic hit hard. Thus, knowledge about the nonprofit's annual fundraiser, as well as, general knowledge about gaining funding were lost for a while.

Kinney said the board has just recently gotten their feet up under them. Now, the United Way of Fostoria is unable to donate $20,000 in funding for First Step's daily operations. This money is used in matching grant money. 

"If we don't have the monies to put forth in matching, we stand to lose up to $100,000 in grants," said Kinney.

She also said in 2020, First Step had more than 5,100 overnights at their shelter. The number of overnights is how they quantify the amount of assistance they're able to give to those in need. The lowest was back in 2015 at more than 1,100 overnights. 

Kinney said all this help, in addition to the countless other services First Step provides, without proper funding could shut them down for good. The closure would hurt not only Fostoria victims in need but those in Seneca, Sandusky, and Wyandot counties as well.

"We're it," said Kinney. 

Emergency shelter placement, to permanent housing, even court assistance to family advocacy. All that and more, said Kinney, First Step offers to women, their children and men looking for help as well. Thus, even though the nonprofit is struggling, Kinney said they're still here to help.

"Absolutely," said Kinney, "If there is a victim out there who needs us, we are open and we are serving them."

Domestic abuse survivor, Dawn D. Peace said the closure would be such a let down for those in need. 

"I don't know where I'd be if it weren't for them, because you talk about a leap of faith. Said okay God I'm gonna trust you," said Peace. 

She left her abuser of two years and while two years isn't very long, she said it was long enough.

"Little by little [her abuser] they get control. There were days when, 'I'm not going to feed you.' He was angry at me," said Peace.

Peace tells her story at Zion United Church of Christ, sharing how First Step supported her. The group donated hygiene readiness bags for First Step clients.

Kinney said the nonprofit board loves all donations and those who volunteer their time to help out. Two things they truly need are simple. 

"Funding and we're in need of a website. Unfortunately about two months ago, our website was hacked," said Kinney. 

Fixing the website costs money and since the bigger need is to keep the doors open, the board prioritized. At one point, they thought of moving locations to save on costs but the First Step building was the first building in Ohio built for the sole purpose of helping domestic abuse survivors, more than 30 years ago, said Kinney. So they're not moving. 

To help with funding, visit First Step's Facebook page.

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