NORMAN — Tears were shed, but for all the good East Main Place has accomplished over the years, happiness filled the room Thursday afternoon. Its doors have closed, but East Main Place said goodbye in celebratory fashion with a party to commemorate its staff and residents.
Event attendees had the opportunity to sign the cutout of a house, share their memories and say goodbye.
One individual wrote, “East Main Place saved my life (twice)! I love everyone here, staff and presidents!! It was a beautiful, meaningful home to many.” Another wrote, “Farewell, East Main Place. You have offered so much to so many. Thank you.” Another person wrote, “What you started will never end.” Such grateful sentiments went on filling the entire house cutout.
Attendees were encouraged to take home bricks, which had been wrapped in tulle and tied with a ribbon, from the walls of East Main Place as a reminder of all the hard work and success the shelter has accomplished.
After two years of planning, the shelter, which was once an employee dormitory for Central State Hospital, opened with 21 apartments in 1992.
For 22 years, the site provided transitional housing and helped 2,731 men, women and children. The building was the recipient of a renovation grant in its early days and was overseen by the Community Action Program. It later formed its own nonprofit with a separate board of directors.
Churches and individuals adopted “apartments” and allowed residents to take the donated furniture when they moved out.
During their time at East Main, residents took care of any warrants or bills while attending counseling and meetings. This past fall, the building’s boiler broke, the organization lost some funding and East Main Place could no longer stay afloat.
Renee Lewis, who was a resident of East Main Place three years ago, said the shelter changed her life.