Opportunity House gets new name, to open in future

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Opportunity House has a new name and will reopen in the near future.

The domestic violence shelter in Opp that closed almost two years ago will now be called Bethesda House.

Bethesda House’s new board of directors decided on its name at its May 22 meeting, board member the Rev. Cindy Howard said.

“The word Bethesda itself means house of mercy and house of grace,” Howard said.

Board member Grace Jeter said the house’s look will stay the same, adding that there will be some renovation done.

“Everything will be new, except for the space itself,” Jeter said.

Howard said since the house hasn’t been lived in for two years, the yard will be cleaned up, the A/C and heating will need to be fixed and some electrical and plumbing work will be done.

The new board of directors, which isn’t complete, is comprised of Jeter, Howard, Debra Gamble, Heather Koerner, Sharon Spurlin, Lori Foreman, Amy Herrington and Chelsea Roberts.

Jeter said the board decided on the name after a Bible story in the book of John, where Jesus healed a man who had been trying to get into the pool of Bethesda.

“There was the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem where people went to get healed,” she said. “A man couldn’t get in the pool, and Jesus said rise up and walk. We believe that the shelter should be and will be a place of healing.”

According to Star-News archives, Opportunity House closed its doors in 2013 because of budget cuts.

Jeter said everything is still in the baby stages, and that an open date will be determined months from now.

“We will soon be looking at a time frame of reopening,” she said. “We’ll have an idea of when to open in the next two months.”

Howard said Gamble and she talked to Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell about reopening the house. Additionally, Jeter was involved in those talks, too, she said.

At present, Howard said the board has asked others to join.

“We now have a couple other members who have joined us,” she said. “There will probably be more joining us. We have three other people being asked to join the board.”

When asked about the ongoing investigation into the Opportunity House alleged misappropriation of funds by two shelter employees, Merrell said the investigation is ongoing, but refused to comment on it any further.

Nearly two years ago, Opportunity House board members asked for a formal investigation into alleged misuse of funds.

Financial records obtained at the time by the Star-News showed excessive payroll and mileage checks were written and questionable credit card purchases – such as six Alabama football tickets and five Auburn tickets, and hundreds of dollars to an Elba florist, two sporting goods stores, a local jeweler and an Enterprise gift store and more.