WINCHESTER — The Laurel Center is scrambling to raise $100,000 by the end of the year to qualify for a $100,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor.
Fundraising is a never-ending need for the nonprofit organization that provides shelter and support services for physically and sexually abused women, children and men in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
Faith Power, executive director of The Laurel Center at 402 N. Cameron St., said the seemingly constant need for financial support stems from the Winchester area’s growing demand for victim services.
“We’re serving more people,” Power said Monday. “We’ve got significant operational expenses that we have to cover, and only about 70% of our [$2.2 million in annual] operating expenses are covered by state [government] funding.”
Less than a year ago, The Laurel Center completed a successful capital campaign to pay off the $1.5 million remaining on the mortgage for its new headquarters and emergency shelter, which opened in 2017 to replace a much smaller facility that regularly exceeded the number of clients it was designed to house.
The three-story, 20,000-square-foot building on North Cameron Street is big enough to shelter 32 women and children on a short-term basis. It also has an additional transitional housing unit for longer-term stays for up to eight people.
However, the center had already outgrown its new facility before staff and clients moved in.
“We had just enough space [for offices and shelter guests], but we had waiting lists for counseling services,” Power said. “To reduce the wait, we added more staff.”
To accommodate the additional staff members, the Laurel Center moved its children’s programs and services out of the North Cameron facility and into a vacant building it purchased at 145 Baker St., about half a block away, that formerly provided offices for Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick-Clarke. Terms of the sale were not released, but Power said a private donor provided the money for the transaction.
“Given the geographic location, it was a necessity because we didn’t have any more space,” she said.
In April, the nonprofit also bought the former CSX train station at 430 N. Cameron St., adjacent to The Laurel Center‘s headquarters, for $205,000. Power said she hopes to convert the station into a workforce development center where the nonprofit’s clients can learn or improve job skills.
Power said she is trying to develop alternative revenue sources so The Laurel Center does not have to appeal for donations anytime a new need arises. For example, the nonprofit hopes to raise money with its first retail store, Good Things for a Good Purpose, which Power hopes to open by the end of the year in a rented building at 37 E. Piccadilly St.
Also, her goal for the workforce development center in the former CSX depot is to open a revenue-generating cafe that would be staffed by The Laurel Center’s clients.
“Workforce development is critical,” Power said. “We have women coming into shelter who have had years upon years of abuse, who haven’t worked in years and have job-skills gaps. They’ve been beaten down and have lost their sense of self-confidence.”
A cafe or similar workforce development venture would give those women the skills and independence they need to support themselves and their children, Power said. In turn, that would help to decrease the number of people who stay at the shelter repeatedly because they don’t have the means to leave their abusers.
“It’s a really critical link in order for us to do more than just shelter women,” she said.
Power said she doesn’t believe in limiting the number of services based on The Laurel Center’s available revenues, so she would rather appeal for extra donations than turn away abuse victims.
“To not create a program that would change someone’s life is just passing the buck,” she said. “It’s not doing all that our mission asks us to do.”
That’s why traditional fundraisers like the center’s annual Empty Bowl Supper, which was held Friday at Fellowship Bible Church in Winchester and raised approximately $20,000 for the nonprofit, will have to be augmented by additional cash-generating ventures such as the current matching grant campaign.
“Every service we offer here is absolutely free,” Power said. “There is nowhere else in the region where you can get free domestic violence or sexual assault counseling, or shelter. It just doesn’t exist.”
Anyone who wants to assist The Laurel Center in raising the $100,000 it needs by year’s end to qualify for the $100,000 matching grant can make a donation or learn more about the organization at thelaurelcenter.org.