The Founding of the Upper Valley Haven
On December 8, 1980, the Upper Valley Haven’s board of directors signed articles of incorporation to form a new non-profit organization. The group, including Rev. Roy “Bud” Cederholm from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Joan Martin, Scott Ogilby, the Rev. Richard “Dick” Cockrell from St. James Episcopal Church in Woodstock, and Joan Williamson from W. Lebanon, had been meeting informally since September in pursuit of a common goal: providing temporary shelter in the Upper Valley to those who were in need. By December, they were ready to make it official, and, according to minutes from one of their early meetings, “put their faith to work…for an emergency shelter.”
Wanting to be an ecumenical organization, they reached out to other churches, including the Lebanon United Methodist Church, Greater Hartford United Church of Christ (Congregational), and St. Anthony Catholic Church in White River Junction. With a broader base of support, the group decided to “purchase the old farmhouse adjacent to the St. Paul’s Church property for $54,000.” A mortgage was taken out and an “angel” helped underwrite the down payment and early expenses.
The farmhouse was in tough shape. A May 1983 Valley News article describes it as having “no insulation. Its heating and wiring systems were disastrous. It was decorated with ancient Christmas tinsel and scrawny nailed-down carpets, and it was filthy. …Workdays were announced in the churches, and Episcopalians, Methodists, Catholics, [and] members of the United Church of Christ found themselves working together, steaming off four layers of wallpaper, putting in insulation, cleaning out truckloads of junk.”1
Then there was the family of feral cats that had taken up residence on the property that had to be lovingly coaxed and fed so they could be relocated. Overgrown trees were cut down; the wood sold to fund the purchase of supplies.
“I can’t believe we worked so well together,” Joan Williamson told the reporter. “We were all so different. It must have been the Lord holding us together.”
The Haven opened its doors to the first guests almost exactly a year after incorporating: December 15, 1981. Fittingly, for the ecumenical organization, the Haven’s first live-in host couple, Donna and Korty Church, welcomed a family of seven whose last name was Bishop.
1Donella Meadows. “The Haven: Dedication Made a Dream Happen.” Valley News, 14 May, 1983.