HAVEN moves ?forward with hope? in new shelter, offices

The Household Abuse Victims Emergency Network (HAVEN, Inc.) celebrated a major milestone in its history of service to Lincoln County with the grand opening of their new shelter and office facility at 1106 E. 8th Street Wednesday with a community open house.
HAVEN, Inc. was established in March of 1979 to service the needs of the community by providing support services to children, families, and adults who have been affected by abuse, violence, or sexual assault. When first started, the group used members’ homes for temporary shelters for abuse victims. It bought its first shelter building on Third Street in 1989 with funds from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). In 1996 an addition was made to the shelter to provide much-needed office space.
As the need for its services grew, it became evident that a new, larger shelter was needed. Originally the group sought to build a shelter on land of its own at 10th and Poplar Streets, but the $1 million plus price tag was an obstacle to that goal in the current economic conditions. The former Lincoln County Land Services Building known as “the Annex” was sitting vacant on 8th Street. with no prospective buyer. The HAVEN Board of Directors offered the Lincoln County Board $65,000 for the Annex building, well below the County’s asking price of $249,000. The sale was unanimously approved by the County Board on Feb. 17, 2009 and a capital campaign to raise $600,000 for remodeling the building began in March, 2009.
The renovated building will provide improved confidentiality and security, more office space and better facilities for staff to meet with clients. The larger shelter includes six bedrooms with a total of 24 beds, more bathrooms, a large new kitchen designed for convenient use by multiple residents, better laundry facilities, and is handicapped accessible. 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.
At Wednesday’s open house, Christopher Malm, who was the chairman of the capital campaign, said the goal was a lofty one given the still depressed local economy. He said the group had pledges totaling over $594,000 and expects to raise the last $6,000. He said that getting the building remodeled without the full fund raising goal being met was a testament of HAVEN Executive Director Judy Woller getting material and labor donated to the cause.
“Many of you know Judy, but not all of you have experienced Judy,” Malm said as the audience laughed.
He said that the over 2,800 in donated labor hours from members of the community and skilled tradesmen was the biggest factor in the success of the remodel.
Outgoing state representative Don Friske sang the praises of HAVEN’s work. He said he had served in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department prior to seeking elected office and went on countless domestic violence calls. He said that having a resource such as HAVEN in the county gives law enforcement officers another way to help such victims.
“The staff at HAVEN was superb to work with,” Friske said.
Tom Tiffany, who has been elected to replace Friske in Madison, congratulated the group and its supporters on the hard work to make the new shelter a reality. He said raising almost $600,000 in today’s economic times and the volunteer workers was a testament to the support HAVEN enjoys from the community.
“This is one of the great things about the American spirit, the volunteerism, especially at the local level,” Tiffany said.
State Senator Jim Holperin also congratulated the board of directors and staff of the organization, saying the purpose of the building was to serve people.
Kelly Edwards, USDA Rural Development Public Information Coordinator, said her group was proud to help the group in its capital campaign with a $100,000 grant.
“Unfortunately, not all communities have a facility of this caliber,” Edwards said.
Patti Seeger, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence said that domestic violence can happen to anyone at any age. She said that her group has seen a rise in teenage girls becoming abuse victims in their very first relationship. She said statewide, domestic abuse groups serve about 2,000 people a day.
“Emergency shelter is the biggest need and HAVEN’s new facility is important because of its added capacity,” Seeger said. “This represents so much for the everyday woman, man and child who may need the service.”
Woller told the audience that the services HAVEN provides to domestic abuse victims are needed now more than ever and the enlarged shelter will mean more families can receive help from the group. She said that while working with abuse and rape victims is emotionally trying, helping these victims is something that needs to be done.
“I am honored by them trusting me with their personal information,” Woller said. “Sitting with someone in an emergency room who has been raped is a painful experience for the victim.”
Woller also thanked the many donors who contributed to making the new facility a reality.
“There were people who mailed in checks for $10,000 and people who sent in $1. People gave what they could,” Woller said.
In addition to the USDA Rural Development grant, the HAVEN project received a $50,000 grant from WHEDA. 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.
A primary source of funding for the renovations was a cooperative loan provided by Lincoln Community, River Valley, and M & I banks through their Merrill offices.

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