H.A.V.E.N. is moving forward with hope

The time has come for the community to see what it has built: HAVEN’s new shelter is ready to open, completed with many donations – both large and small – of time and labor, money and materials, commitment and dedication on the part of groups and individuals. Open House for HAVEN’s new facility at 1106 E. 8th St. in Merrill (the former Lincoln County annex location) will be held Wednesday, Dec. 8 from 3-7 p.m. There will be speakers, tours, displays and refreshments. The total number of recorded volunteer hours donated to the project will also be announced.

The newly renovated building will provide improved confidentiality and security, more office space and better facilities for staff to meet with clients, a larger shelter including six bedrooms with a total of 24 beds, more bathrooms, a large new kitchen planned for convenient use by multiple residents, better laundry facilities, and handicapped accessibility throughout, including an elevator. There is also a large living room/dining area for residents, a children’s play room and a teen room. The lower level includes a versatile room which can be used for groups or meetings.

It was almost 32 years ago in March, 1979, that a community group in Merrill formed an association they called HAVEN: Household Abuse Victims Emergency Network. In the beginning, volunteers offered their own homes as places of emergency shelter to domestic abuse victims with the length of stay usually being 3 days and nights. In 1989, HAVEN purchased the present shelter house with funds from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). A 1996 addition provided much-needed office space. By its 25th anniversary in 2007, HAVEN was helping more people each year, had added staff and services, and had outgrown both the shelter and office areas of its original location. So, after studying the projected needs, HAVEN decided to purchase land on 10th and Poplar Streets in Merrill, and began fund-raising to build a brand new facility. But the fall of 2008 brought the economic crisis along with a change of plans. A new shelter costing over $1 million no longer seemed feasible with the local economy feeling the impact of the downturn. At the same time, the former Lincoln County Land Services Building known as “the Annex” was sitting vacant on 8th St. with no prospective buyer. With $68.000 in the building fund, the HAVEN Board of Directors decided to offer the Lincoln County Board $65,000 for the Annex building, much below the County’s asking price of $249.000. The sale was unanimously approved by the County Board on Feb. 17, 2009. A Capital Campaign to raise $600,000 for remodeling the Annex began in March, 2009.

A primary source of funding for the renovations has been a cooperative loan provided by three Merrill banks: Lincoln Community, River Valley, and M & I. The HAVEN project received a WHEDA grant of $50,000 in January, 2010 and will be the recipient of a $100,000 reimbursement grant from USDA Rural Development as the project is completed. Other public funding has come from the Merrill Housing Authority. Many business and community entities have made major contributions also, including substantial donations from River Valley Bank and the Merrill Community Foundation.

Some of the many donations of materials and labor included siding, soffit and facia from Louisiana Pacific of Tomahawk which were installed by Habitat for Humanity volunteers; windows donated by Lincoln Wood of Merrill, which were put in by volunteers; and the installation of fencing by the Merrill Fire Department with the help of additional volunteers Per-Mar, Anderson Communications and Yingling Computer Services also donated equipment and/or services for the project.

Over the past 32 years, HAVEN’s services have expanded and now include help for domestic abuse, child abuse, elder abuse and sexual assault. HAVEN’s crisis line is answered 24 hours a day at 715-536-1300.

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