Grace Place cuts ribbon at new location
With a large crowd of community members and area residents assembled for the Grace Place Grand Opening, Grace Place Shelter Manager Lori Scheder wasted no time cutting the big red ribbon strung in front of the building to officially open the new facility in New Richmond.
“I just have to say first that you did it, this community did it,” said Duana Bremer, Salvation Army social services director for St. Croix, Polk and Burnett counties. “This grand opening is about more than just the structure and the building. We are now able to offer a home for the homeless and a place where they can come and rebuild their lives. The dream today that came true, is not just for us or my staff, but it is for the people that we serve.”
The grand opening got underway with a flag raising ceremony performed by the New Richmond American Legion Post 80.
The first speaker to take up the microphone was Pastor Amy Hessel of Bethany Lutheran Church in Star Prairie. Hessel spoke for a few minutes before saying a prayer in front of the crowd.
“This place is about zero degrees of separation from our brothers and sisters, and ultimately Christ himself, who lives and walks in each one of us no matter our station,” Hessel said.
Following Hessel’s prayer, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI 7) took a few minutes to speak about how it is a very American idea for a community to step forward and take responsibility for its fellow citizens.
“We might have a historic day here. Not only is it the opening of Grace Place, but you might have a politician who speaks for less time than a pastor,” Duffy said. “If you look at what is happening here today, you have something that is very American. This kind of a thing doesn’t happen in many countries or communities around the world. The idea is that when you see a need in your community, you don’t look to somebody else to fill that need; you stand up and you step forward and you meet the need of that community. You see that happening here today with Grace Place.”
Duffy went on to talk about the hours the volunteers put in to help prepare the new facility for its grand opening on Saturday as well as the new facility’s ability to accommodate and comfort more people than it ever could before. He also said he’s working to make sure the federal government does a better job of seeing that homelessness and hunger don’t take place only in urban centers but also in the smaller communities of rural America, such as New Richmond.
“The example set here today is one that’s not waiting for the federal government to step in and fix the problem,” Duffy said. “It is a community that sees the need for those that have fallen on a time of need and are willing to step forward to help those who need it. Congratulations to you all and thank you to the Salvation Army for all their work. And thank you to Duana for all your leadership and for bringing me here today.”
After Duffy finished his speech, Stan Kelly, Salvation Army divisional development director for Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, took his turn behind the microphone and thanked the community for its help in making everything happen.
“The facility is just beautiful,” Kelly said. “My principle job here today is to say thank you to all of you that had a part in the Grace Place remodel or gave money in the Christmas Kettles. Your support is evidenced here. Thank you on behalf of not only the Salvation Army, but for all the people who are going to come and spend some time at Grace Place. It will be a great place for them where we can treat them with dignity and get them back into housing and back with a job.”
Once Kelly finished, United Way Executive Director John Coughlin took a few minutes to discuss the history of Grace Place in Somerset and how the United Way went about starting up the facility. The Somerset location opened its doors in 2002 after getting similar support from that community.
“Now it is time for the next evolution of Grace Place,” Coughlin said. “We are sponsoring the learning center inside the building and we will continue to be actively involved.”
When Bremer took her turn to talk, she commended the community on its ability to raise money and its willingness to volunteer.
“We decided we needed to raise $200,000 to begin the renovations and this community raised over $250,000,” Bremer said. “Then we needed a lot of volunteers to do the volunteer work … and the community stepped forward and also did that. They provided over 8,142 volunteer hours.
“And this is now a building that belongs to the community because you are the ones who stepped forward and made this happen,” Bremer said. “So thank you very much.”