Weather Forecast


In from the cold: Lighthouse Project sets goal of adding 15 beds at Turningpoint shelter

With 17 beds available, last year Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence did not have room for 44 abused women and children who requested emergency shelter.

“We can’t keep turning people away,” said Executive Director Kim Wojcik, who said the goal of a new committee — chaired by former River Falls mayor Don Richards — is to raise enough money to finish conversion projects that will add 15 more beds at the shelter.

A kick-off event for the newly christened “Lighthouse Project” will be held 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in Fellowship Hall of St. Bridget Catholic Church, 211 E. Division St, River Falls.

Wojcik told of a day in December when she received a call asking for shelter. Every bed was occupied, a family was staying in the shelter common room, another family was housed in the boardroom, and the agency had put a third family up in a local hotel so Wojcik had to tell the woman there was no room available.

To this day, said the director, she is haunted by the fact that she never heard from the caller again and has no idea what happened to her.

The Lighthouse Project theme was chosen to indicate that Turningpoint “is a light in the darkness created by domestic and sexual abuse,” according to promotional materials.

Turningpoint was founded in 1979 to serve clients in Pierce and St. Croix counties. After years of housing victims in private houses or in rented homes, the agency built a secure emergency shelter that now has 17 beds with services provided by seven fulltime and seven part-time employees. No bed space has been added in more than 20 years.

To help with funding, the agency opened its Second Chances store, selling donated furniture and clothing. For years the store was housed in rented buildings until the agency took out a mortgage to buy a large building at 117 N. Main Street in 2012. Contractors and volunteers renovated the building, and the new space was opened last August.

The intent from the beginning was to remodel upper levels of the store and move Turningpoint’s offices and staff there, freeing up shelter space for more bedrooms.

In February, plans moved to the next stage, and a nine-member committee — led by Richards, Gail Upton and Bernie Abrahamson — began work on the Lighthouse Project.

“This is the final leg of it all,” said Wojcik, emphasizing that this is the most important part.

“This is way less about the building. It’s about doubling shelter space,” she said.

The cost is an estimated $120,000, but the Otto Bremer Foundation is contributing $20,000, cutting the goal amount to $100,000.

“As we raise money, we will be doing the final remodeling,” said Wojcik. “It is our hope to have it all done this summer. We definitely want it done before we are turning people away in the cold weather again.”

Letters are going out to long-term supporters, and the committee is hoping for a dozen donors at the $5,000 “Champion of Light” level.

“That would get us to over the halfway point,” said Wojcik. The committee is also seeking donations at levels from $1 to $4,999.

According to statistics provided by Turningpoint, the agency provided 3,276 “bed nights” in 2010, and that number grew to 3,933 in 2013. A “bed night” is defined as an evening in which a client slept at the shelter.

The Lighthouse kick-off event is open to the public. Food and beverages will be provided.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.