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Ground broken for new Women's Crisis Center

By Sonny Long
Nov. 19, 2010 at 5:19 a.m.

Dina Tollefsen, Molly Villafranca and Angela Bujnoch, staffers at Mid-Coast Family Services, check out the floor plans for the new Women's Crisis Center being built in Victoria. The official groundbreaking was held Friday and construction should  take six to eight months to complete.

WOMEN'S CRISIS CENTER TIMELINE1985 - Center opens in two-story Victorian-style residence built before 1900.

1999 - Women's Crisis Center and Mid-Coast Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse merge to form Mid-Coast Family Services.

2002 - 7.5 acres of land purchased for future site of new center.

October 2008 - Feasibility study conducted and $1.5 million capital campaign begins.

November 2010 - Ground-breaking held for new Women's Crisis Center.

Fall 2011 - Expected opening of new center.

WOMEN'S CRISIS CENTER

BY THE NUMBERS

26 - Capacity of current center.

42 - Capacity of new center.

300 - Average number of victims who use the center at least one night a year.

1,545 - Number of calls answered on the domestic violence hotline last year.

5,000 - Estimated number of men, women and children who have used the center in 26 years.

12,161 - Number of meals served at the center last year.

$150,000 - Funds awarded to the project by the Meadows Foundation.

$400,000 - The amount of money donated to the project by both the Johnson Foundation and by block grants from the city of Victoria.

Source: Midcoast Family services

Molly Villafranca was nearly in tears Friday at the ground-breaking of the new Women's Crisis Center in Victoria.

But she was happy.

"It's been a dream for so long," said Villafranca, family violence program coordinator with Mid-Coast Family Services. "It has finally become a reality. To finally see it come to this, it's a dream come true. I think it's fabulous."

Villafranca has been with the agency for 23 years and was director of the original women's shelter in 1985.

"It was staffed by volunteers, and we put Band Aids on things for so long. It continued to grow so much we had to finally have paid staff," she recalled.

GROUND BREAKING

During Friday's ceremonies, Ginny Stafford, chief executive officer of Mid-Coast Family Services, told the gathered crowd the effort to build the new center has involved a lot of people.

"There was a small group of committed people who brought in a big group of committed people who brought in a bigger community," Stafford said. "As we walk down this path, what I have witnessed is God's fingerprints all over what we are doing."

Stafford said a feasibility study and capital campaign began in 2008, and the project gained momentum in 2009.

"After the homeless count in 2009, we began a new partnership with the city of Victoria," she said. "The city has been our knight in shining armor here. The city realized that we could begin a new partnership that changes the way we serve victims and the homeless in Victoria. It gave us the shot in the arm we needed to get over that hump."

The city awarded the project $400,000 in block grant funds. Its planning department has also worked closely with Mid-Coast on infrastructure needs for the new facility.

"Here we are almost 25 months later, and we are going to build a shelter," Stafford said. "It's an amazing, amazing thing."

THE NEW CENTER

Stafford said the new center will be built with the unique needs of victims in mind. "While security features are part of the basic design, we are committed to building a home that is more than an institution, but rather a place where the body, mind and spirit can find healing," she said.

The new center will include:

Commercially outfitted kitchen.

Dining room to allow the residents to gather for meals, no longer eating in shifts.

Bathrooms and laundry serving multiple families at the same time.

Counseling room to provide privacy needed to deal with difficult family issues.

Learning lab for residents to increase their knowledge and job skills.

Protected outside area with playground.

Another addition to the new shelter will be an emergency pet shelter.

"Often victims are reluctant to come to the shelter if it means they have to leave a beloved pet behind, who may also suffer at the hands of an abuser," Stafford said.

BUILDING A DREAM

The new shelter is the culmination of a dream that began nearly 10 years ago when the Women's Crisis Center and Mid-Coast Family Services merged in 1999.

Daphne Zuniga, who headed Mid-Coast Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the time, saw then the need for a larger women's shelter.

After patching up the women's shelter for a couple of years, Zuniga went to the Johnson Foundation for help.

"I unfolded the vision to them, and they knew where this land was. You can immediately see that it fits here. It's tucked away, but easily accessible," she said. "We knew we wouldn't be able to build right away. The thought was: 'Let's purchase the land and build a dream.' I am so excited to see it coming about."

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