When Roberta Bledsoe stepped in as executive director of Polk County House of Hope, she said her eyes were opened to societal problems she never knew existed.
And, once her eyes opened, “The passion I’ve found for this type of work is hard to explain,” she said.
For 14 years, Bledsoe saw the numerical side of helping the public, working as a state auditor and making sure taxpayer dollars were spent responsibly.
Transitioning from government work to the world of non-profit organizations gave her a different perspective.
Bledsoe, a Southwest Baptist University graduate from Weaubleau, left the state agency to work at a community action agency in Appleton City. She later worked as a senior accountant at Woods Supermarket in Bolivar before moving to work for Catholic Charities of Kansas City.
“I saw people being helped in different, individual ways,” she said. “We were having that one-on-one with them and being able to provide them a service that will improve the quality of their life.”
That experience is what brought her back to Bolivar to take the top position at House of Hope, she said.
She replaces interim director Jack Owens, a board member who stepped in to help the organization restructure after former executive director Daniel Leith resigned in June. Owens left the post to return to the board at the end of the year.
“They saw that there were some changes that needed to be made and started restructuring things,” she said. “I came on board, and we’ve continued restructuring things by looking at the positions we have to make sure they’re the ones we need and serving our clients and our outreach offices.”
In addition to the outreach offices, HOH also operates a thrift store and women’s shelter, she said. Its services are offered in eight other counties, and it was involved with helping victims in 26 counties in 2019, she said.
“It’s actually somewhat of a misconception that we just work in Polk County,” she said. “These are people we wish we didn’t have to serve, but we know the need is there. When you get in this world, it grabs you and the passion you find for it is overwhelming.”
The organization’s goals include sheltering and outreach services.
Bledsoe said she hopes to work with other local organizations, schools and law enforcement agencies to improve domestic and sexual violence awareness, too.
“We want to be able to get the victim directed to the right resources so they can return to a good quality of life,” she said. “That’s helping people through this crisis and putting them back out there where they can function with normalcy, like a job, a house and food. Then, they’re not fleeing. That’s our hope when we provide these services.”
Expanding the services HOH offers is one vision she’s brought onboard, she said.
Volunteers are a crucial part of that vision, not only in the work they provide at the main office, thrift store and shelter, but also as a way of qualifying for grant funding, which covers a portion of the organization’s budget.
Community support is necessary, she said.
“Unfortunately there's a need, so we always want to expand our services,” she said.
For more information on volunteering at PCHOC, call the office at 777-3229.