By: Amy Lavalley – Post-Tribune
Local officials gathered on Valparaiso’s north side Monday to celebrate what they noted was a very special occasion.
After a capital campaign of about 18 months, The Caring Place, Porter County’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence, raised enough money to move forward with a much-needed larger facility.
In all, the non-profit raised more than 90 percent of its goal, which is just shy of $2.9 million for construction of a new building. Representatives from the shelter and its capital campaign lifted shovels of dirt in a ceremonial groundbreaking.
If the foundation is in place by the winter, the new facility will be open by the spring, Mary Beth Schultz, The Caring Place’s executive director, said.
Donations for the new shelter, which will replace an aging structure facing a host of structural and other issues, came from throughout the community and beyond, Schultz said, adding a recent $325,000 grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation in Morehead City, N.C., allowed the project to move forward.
“This is a project the community embraced. They want it to succeed and we want it to succeed,” she said.
The Caring Place was founded 40 years ago in the basement of St. Bridget Church in Hobart, eventually moving to a house that’s now more than 100 years old.
The current building, said Joanne Urschel, board chair and honorary campaign chair, is too small and has plumbing, electrical and structural issues that threaten the facility, which she added is one major disaster away from not being able to house clients.
Noting that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, making perfect timing for the groundbreaking, Urschel also said she would rather The Caring Place did not need to exist.
Talking about domestic violence, she said, brings it to light, adding police calls about domestic violence are second only to those involving drugs in the community, and police average five arrests per week in Porter County.
“For every call, we know there are many, many who are not able to call,” she said. “It really is terrorism, terrorism within the family bonds.”
When he was first out of college, Valparaiso city manager Bill Oeding said he worked at a crisis intervention center and he was shocked by the number of calls about domestic violence – from both men and women – that the center received.
“When (The Caring Place) looked at this site, I was thrilled. I couldn’t think of a better site,” Oeding said, adding the larger facility will allow the shelter to “continue to provide programs to those in need.”
The new shelter, officials said, will double bed space from 24 to 48; will offer improved wheelchair and stroller accessibility and be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and also will have additional bathrooms, on-site meeting rooms, and have kitchen and laundry facilities equipped with industrial grade appliances.
While the county’s drug problem is often at the forefront, “no one wants to talk about how important fighting domestic violence is,” said Sheriff David Reynolds, whose wife, Debbi Reynolds, is the shelter’s director of client services.
“You should be so excited about all of the work that you’ve done,” he said.
Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.