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Family support council seeks funding

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

With decreasing state funds and dwindling community donations, the Family Support Council won’t be opening the domestic violence shelter anytime soon.

“There is no doubt that Douglas County needs a shelter, but we need a stable foundation before we can open,” said Family Support Council Director Karen Edwards. “Right now, we’re not in a financial position to buy property and still have money to run it afterwards.”

Edwards said the council expected $300,000 would be necessary to bring an existing home up to code if one was donated for the shelter. The council has collected $260,000. No one has come forward to donate property. She estimated three years ago that it would take between $75,000-$100,000 a year to run a shelter.

Edwards said the council is in the same position as other non-profit agencies in the state.

“I don’t know what the governor is going to cut, and it could, in fact, affect us. We are being very cautious. There is nothing worse than having a shelter without programs to back it up,” Edwards said. “I have foreseen this coming for a few years. We’re fortunate that we have money in the bank as a firm foundation.”

At this point, Edwards said the council has collected $5,000 less than last year. There are still a few grants she has not heard about yet.

She said the council is still pursuing funding, but the community donations have also been declining. She said the March fund-raiser proceeds were down. A second annual fund-raiser, a golf tournament at Genoa Lakes is Sunday, Aug. 20.

“You can’t expect the kind of money we will need to run a shelter to come in solely through community donations,” Edwards said. “We would love to have another fund-raiser, but if people are tapped out, what makes me think a third will bring in more dollars? We didn’t want to do that to the community. We are hoping this is just a lull, because the community has been good to us.”

In addition, the number of people the council is serving is growing. Edwards said the number of parents coming in for counseling or parenting classes increased last year by 34 percent. In 1998, domestic violence program participants increased by 16 percent. Edwards said domestic violence takes up most of the council’s time and funds.

Edwards said the thrift store, opened in October, was supposed to be the money-maker for both the council and the shelter. Edwards said the thrift shop is making some money, but not enough to contribute to the council’s programs.

Edwards said the long-term plan was to eventually expand into other businesses to help support the shelter.

Edwards said the council is preparing for the upcoming legislative session. A phone tree is being organized so the council can keep its supporters aware of any bills that might threaten non-profit organizations. Edwards hopes people will call their legislators in protest of any such bills.

“It’s going to happen. Douglas County needs to realize we’re lucky we’ve been as cautious with our dollars, so we’re not in a bad position, but I’ve already had to cut one person’s staff hours. I didn’t want to and I’ve never had to do that before,” Edwards said.