Thrift shop fire stalls small town's effort to help victims of violence

CARROLLTON, Mo. - A December fire did more more than just destroy two buildings on the town square in Carrollton, Mo. It also cut off an important lifeline for people in need of help.

The fire gutted the "House of My Father" thrift store, which raises money for domestic violence victims. Ever since the blaze, owners Sarah Webb-Wilson and her husband, Virgil Wilson, have been working day after day to build it back up.

The Wilsons are waiting on an official fire cause from the state fire marshal's office so they can collect insurance money to open a new location.

In the meantime, they're trying to rebuild their stock. On Thursday morning, they stopped by Judy Standley's home to pick up some items.

"They're really helping a lot of people," Standley said. "I know a lot of people that could have used this a long time ago."

The shop opened in fall 2011. The shelter -- a donated house -- took its first client on Christmas Eve of that year. In nine months, the shelter helped more than 75 women, children and men. In just 18 months, the Wilsons raised $30,000 to support the shelter.

"I ended up living there 24 hours a day, except for maybe a day or two a week, and it just got to be too much for me," Sarah said.

In August she decided to temporarily close the shelter, hoping to raise enough money to hire staff and provide a full-time service.

"I love putting my arm around their shoulder when they come in saying, 'I love you, God loves you, you don't have to put up with this,'" Sarah said.

A domestic violence survivor herself, Sarah knows it's a lonely feeling, especially in a rural community, where help can be even harder to find. That's why she and Virgil work tirelessly to bring back a safe place where victims become survivors.

Unfortunately, the Wilsons face another big challenge. The shelter needs a lot of work. From cracks in the foundation to supports eaten away by termites, no one can move in until the home is repaired.

Anyone wishing to help the Wilsons can call 660-542-3300 or send them an email at thehouseofmyfather64633@yahoo.com.

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