(Editor’s Note: I was raped over 40 years ago, before women’s shelters existed. Five years after my rape, another event caused me to realize I had never dealt with my feelings about my assault. I volunteered at Every Woman’s Place, which was new then. I received my certification in the Empathy Training Program and I still carry the certification card with me wherever I go. It reminds me that I not only survived — I also could help other women. Every Woman’s Place gave me a part of myself back. Every woman needs to know there is a place to go when her life doesn’t go exactly as planned.)

Imagine a young woman named Julie — nineteen years old and pregnant from her brother’s “friend” who just wanted to have “a little fun” and forced himself on her. With little or no family support, she turns to Every Woman’s Place (EWP) who provides her with shelter and counseling.

Because of the Julies of the world, EWP ‘s shelters are nearly always at capacity.

“With a bigger and improved facility, young women like Julie will have a safer place to stay as we will upgrade our security system. In addition, they will be able to learn more life skills because we plan a residential kitchen with laundry facilities, and an activity area for yoga, gym and basketball,” says Christina Scarpino, Director of Development for EWP.

The capital campaign has a goal of $2.5 million with half of the funds raised so far.

The shelter renovation will address basic, but critical needs:

· Replace and update the plumbing.
· Update windows and doors, making them more energy efficient.
· Upgrade electrical and HVAC to meet current codes.
· Upgrade finishes such as carpet, paint and ceilings.
· Repurpose existing space to allow for gym/cafeteria.
· Create space for a computer lab.

The renovation will maintain the same building footprint and will:

· Increase shelter beds from 20-24.
· Separate genders and programs in youth shelter.
· Move Transitional Living Program to a larger space.
· Reduce operating costs.
· Increase safety and security for residents.
· Provide access to internet and technology.
· Create a clean, healthy environment by removing old finishes and providing a space for physical activity.

Every year the agency serves nearly 7,000 individuals through services including: counseling, case management, legal advocacy, mentoring, parenting support and safe shelter. Last year 245 women and 241 children stayed in the shelter for victims of abuse. Also 139 teens ages 12-17 and older homeless teens ages 18-22 stayed in the youth shelters.

“We have a strong relationship with this community. The agency relies on the community for support and the community needs EWP and Webster House. We are the ONLY shelter that provides shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Muskegon County and the only runaway youth and residential treatment facility in West Michigan. The needs remain and we are committed to meeting the growing need,” said Lori Rasmussen, Executive Director.

Commemorative opportunities will allow individuals and groups to sponsor areas such as shelter rooms, counseling/session rooms, activity areas, salon, laundry facilities, kitchen areas, living areas, and the children’s play room to name a few. The level to sponsor a shelter room is $11,000. “We are hoping the community rallies and supports this campaign,” said Molly Gillhespy, Campaign co-chair and Vice President of the Board at EWP and Webster House.

Molly Gillhespy, Norma York-Bremer and Brad and Janice Hilleary will lead the campaign. Additional cabinet members will provide support through community engagement activities and major gift solicitation.

The agency will also seek donated services and volunteers to help with the project. The agency will consider the help of organizations, churches and individuals who have a special skill that may reduce costs.

To make a contribution, please contact the Development Department at Every Woman’s Place/Webster House Youth Services. Gifts can be sent to:

EWP – Building Fund • 175 W. Apple Avenue, Muskegon, MI 49440

The agency has also set up a fund at The Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Gifts may be sent to the foundation at:

425 W. Western Ave. , Muskegon, MI 49440

For more information about the campaign call the Development Department at Every Woman’s Place/Webster House Youth Services by calling 231-759-7909 ext. 239.

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