The Wonders of Penn House

Ever curious what wonders lies inside Lawrence Kansas? The Penn House is definitely a gift to the Lawrence community. Penn House has several different categories it caters to its community such as helping low-income residents, college students, supplying clothing, appliances, shoes, anything a person may need to survive can be found at the Penn House.

Tim and Susan Robinson

Similar to stores like Salvation Army and GoodWill but instead it’s focusing more on supplying the community with assistance and rebuilding or helping better lives  as well as supply clothing and other necessities.

Not a lot of students know about this great little business and it’s not far from the Haskell Campus, in fact several Haskell students have visited Penn House for winter jackets. Tim Robinson a Haskell Alumni and his wife Susan Robinson both volunteer at the Penn House, and last  year the Penn House sent out ten cars of donations to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Supplies containing tents, blankets, coats, boots, gloves, and more for the cold winter. “From January through April the Warm Hearts program helps specifically with heat.Several thousand community residents stay warm through the winter due to this program.” (Penn House, Ballard Center)

Mike Lichtie

Mike Litchie

Mike Lichtie, a citizen of the Lawrence community and the man to see when discussing Penn House, he is also in charge of the establishment. In the interview Litchie explained how Penn House has resided in Lawrence for over 50 years and was built in a day by volunteers of the community. It has served many families and individuals in need, operating entirely off of donations and grants, a non profit organization and everything that is donated is given back to the Lawrence community.

“We mainly have a lot of clothes but we do have household items like pots and pans, anything that is brought to us that is in serviceable shape, things like that we will put out and make available to people. We also have other services available: rent and utility assistance for families that are in need in Douglas county and emergency assistance” Mike Litchie

“In collaboration with Harvesters our choice based mobile food bank allow vulnerable Douglas County residents nutritional and choice of foods has allowed our clients to improve their diets choosing the healthy items they will eat such as the healthy fruits and grains we offer.” (Penn House, Ballard Center)

College students are allowed to receive any of these benefits when coming to the Penn House, there are many pillows, blankets, jackets, rice makers, DVD’s, books, whatever a college student needs can be found in this thrift store oasis.

The Penn House helps up to 6 to 8 thousand a year and and on a regular day at least 60-70 people come through said Lichtie.

“…receives generous donations of clothing from untold numbers of people in Douglas County. We in turn distribute them to low-income people and families so they can meet the needs at work and school.” (Penn House, Ballard Center)

Mike Lichtie hopes to expand the Professional Closet section at the Penn House, to expand or reinvent so that people looking for a job can find nice things for a job interview or pick out what would be appropriate for the work they are doing.

Lichtie mentioned how they have now hired a new case manager so to people in crisis, new types of services once a month a lawyer that will come and offer advice on civic matters.

“Low-income community residents can access help with utility or rent payments.
Money is given in emergency situations only. We help several hundred avoid homelessness and utility disconnects every year.” (Penn House, Ballard Center)

Volunteers are very much welcome to come help out at the Penn House, the environment is a very welcoming and friendly and a helping hand is never refused. Donations are very much welcomed down at the Penn House, they accept almost anything that can be of use to families, students, and individuals in need.

Susan Robinson

“Why throw it in the dumpster when somebody else can use it. Something you can’t take back home and can be used at Penn House, we will definitely take it. Call us before you dump them in the trash, we take hangers, good socks, refrigerators, TV’s, microwaves, outdated clothes.” Stated Susan Robinson, “There’s a place here if you have need items and there’s a place here when you don’t need them anymore.”

Sophomore student Jamie Colvin and Haskell Eco Ambassador is family friends with Tim and Susan Robinson as well as a donor and member of the Penn House team. Her family helped donate several supplies to the Penn House and drove to Standing Rock to help bring supplies with her family and friends last year.

Jamie Colvin, Mike Litchie

“The Penn House is a place to remember and share with friends and family. It’s not only helping families in need but students as well, not a lot of Haskell students realize that if they need certain supplies or assistance the Penn House is here for them. I took some friends recently to visit and and check it out for themselves, they ended up finding a bunch of old Disney VHS tapes that they got for free and were in good condition. There really is a lot that comes through here.”

The Penn House is Lawrence’s own little Wonderland that helps many of it’s community and residents. Designed in that natural Lawrence eclectic style, a blue building with a bright red roof and lining, a person would have to be driving fast to miss it. Seeing the support of Haskell students and alumni getting involved in the  Lawrence community and working to help end poverty situations can help be a good influence on other students interested in joining.  

Penn House can be located on 1035 Pennsylvania Street, Lawrence KS, open from 8 am to 4 pm every weekday and closed on the weekends. If you aren’t able to drop off the stuff you don’t want or need go ahead and give them a call, the Penn House is willing to come to you to pick up the used items. 

Penn House Phone Number: 785 842-0440

And visit their website at http://ballardcenter.org/page8/