The Lutheran Mission Society turned tragedy to triumph last week when it opened a compassion center in a former Havre de Grace gun and sporting goods shop where two sisters were slain in 1991.
"We're really excited about this because this will be a place that will make a positive difference to this community," said Steven Alms, director of development for the society, which operates six centers in Maryland assisting low-income families and individuals. The group calls the sites "compassion centers."
The society's new quarters are in the former Sportsman's Center at 531 Legion Drive.
Bessie Urban Mitchell, 73, of Havre de Grace, and Emily Urban Hamby, 75, of Aberdeen, were slain in the shop during a midday robbery on Oct. 18, 1991. Kenneth R. Brodt of Creswell has been indicted on first-degree murder charges for the deaths.
The estate of the sisters sold the building to the mission society, said Richard L. Alms, executive director of the society.
"This was once a site of tragedy. Now it's a site for joy and healing," he said during a dedication ceremony on Wednesday.
The center has a store where clothes, furniture, toys and kitchen items can be purchased at low cost. Also, the center will offer medical checkups and a "day room" where the homeless can sit and read or watch television when the weather is bad.
Stephanie Boddie, coordinator of the Havre de Grace compassion center, said the new site is much better than the former mission site on Congress Street because it is close to low-income areas of the city.
"We've been open just a few days and already I've noticed the number of people coming through here has doubled," said Boddie. "This building puts us closer to the people who need us. There is a lot of need in this town."