Oliver: Let’s make sure shelter remains safe haven

In 2007, the county’s first and only shelter for victims of domestic violence opened.

That was the realization of a dream Turning Point of McHenry County had had for years.

However, it was the community that took that dream and made it a reality.

For a woman named Cecilia, the first person to use the shelter in Woodstock, it was a chance to become whole again, to protect her nearly 1-year-old twins and to work to fulfill dreams of her own.

Cecilia told her story at Turning Point’s annual dinner in 2010.

From the safety of the shelter, Cecilia was helped to get an order of protection against her husband, whom she said was “trying to drink himself to death.”

That action was the wake-up call her husband needed, and it forced him into rehab.

Meanwhile, the stay at the shelter gave Cecilia time to heal.

She received emotional support and counseling. Her twins received clothes and diapers. She applied for government benefits.

Turning Point even worked with a local car dealer to get her a car. That allowed Cecilia to get a job in horticulture, a field she had wanted to go into since childhood.

When she was ready, she got help to find an apartment and assistance to furnish it for free.

Her husband, who would become her ex-husband, received help from Turning Point’s Partner Abuse Intervention program. That and Alcoholics Anonymous changed his life as well.

Cecilia’s story is just one of the many success stories that have resulted from our community having a shelter where women and their children can find the safety and services they need.

However, making sure a shelter is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year isn’t without its costs. In fact, it takes $300,000 a year to operate.

Since the shelter’s opening, some 372 women and 347 children have spent 25,687 nights there.

In this time of financial uncertainty for so many area social service agencies, Turning Point is turning to a new campaign to make sure the shelter can remain open into the future.

“We have always been very frugal with our money and very careful,” said Jane Farmer, Turning Point’s executive director. “Each year we’ve been able to make it work.”

Yet, this is the first year the agency will have to dip into its reserves.

Thanks to generous donations of $200,000 each from Vince Foglia and Mike and Judy Luecht, the Cecilia Fund was born.

Yes, the fund was named after the shelter’s first occupant — a fitting tribute to the power of the shelter to help and to heal.

The goal is to raise $1 million over the next three years to “sustain the shelter for the future,” Farmer said.

Anyone who wishes to donate should call the agency at 815-338-8081 or visit www.mchenrycountyturningpoint.org.

“As a community, we can come together,” Farmer said. 

We did it in 2007 to open the shelter, and we can do it again to make sure that it’s available to all who need it into the future.

It’s just too important of a place not to.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at joliver@shawmedia.com.

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