October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month

As our nation recognizes October as Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, an agency in Appleton is rising to meet the challenge – literally.

Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs broke ground in September on a $4 million building expansion at 720 W. Fifth St. The added space will offer counseling rooms, private family rooms, quiet waiting rooms for clients who are in crisis, office space where advocates can meet privately with clients, training facilities, a wellness wing, medical exam rooms, an area for animals and a safe outdoor courtyard.

Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs broke ground in September on a $4 million building expansion.
Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs broke ground in September on a $4 million building expansion.

Katie Phalin, the agency’s volunteer coordinator, said that although $4 million was raised, the agency needs the community’s help to raise additional funds to furnish the facility. The Mary Beth Nienhaus Community Challenge is an online campaign in conjunction with the Harbor House Building Hope campaign. The first $150,000 raised will be matched 1 to 1.

The agency also needs community support to help with day-to-day needs.

She said they appreciate it when volunteers offer to help prepare meals, clean the kitchen and watch the children to help the mothers.

There are volunteer opportunities for groups willing to volunteer one morning or evening a month to deep-clean the kitchen. Clients are grateful for the help. Phalin said folks who come to Harbor House are doing what they need to do to get by day-by-day.

“Our clients are living in crisis,” she said. “They come in experiencing something very traumatic. They are in survival mode. Anything we can provide them with as far as resources and support is beneficial.”

Some volunteer groups commit to a regular schedule. One group comes to Harbor House every Tuesday. Volunteers rotate food in the kitchen and go to St. Joseph Food Pantry to stock the kitchen for the week.

Other groups come to the agency and provide a movie and a meal. One group brought the movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” and made spaghetti.

Some folks come to the agency to play board games with the kids.

Another volunteer comes in once a month to make welcome bags for the kids.

“Some of the kids come in with nothing,” Phalin said. “It’s important that they have a blanket, flashlight, stuffed animal and books. These items provide comfort – they own them. This is where they feel safe.”

The Boy Scouts came one night and made a campfire. One Boy Scout created a 4-hour program that includes themed games for the kids in conjunction with his Eagle project. He also reads to the kids.

“He offers the kids some time to be kids and the moms some time to relax,” Phalin said.

Phalin said the greatest reward of her role as volunteer coordinator is witnessing first-hand the impact volunteers make in the lives of the residents.

If you would like to volunteer at Harbor House, contact Katie Phalin at 920-832-1667 or katie.phalin@harborhousewi.org.