WINCHESTER — Following a decade of nearly nonstop fundraising, The Laurel Center built a three-story, state-of-the-art headquarters and emergency shelter in downtown Winchester.
Unfortunately, when the 20,000-square-foot facility opened in January 2018, something was missing: A quiet place where residents could sit outside and relax, where their children could stay dry while waiting for a school bus on rainy days.
A few months ago, the nonprofit center's executive director, Faith Power, noticed a small patch of grass behind the emergency residential shelter that would be just right for a gazebo.
"Grace Lutheran Church [in Winchester] provided us with resources to purchase the gazebo," Power said on Wednesday. "Then I reached out to Danny [McKee, president of Kee Construction Services Inc. in Winchester] to see if he could help us put this in and he said, 'Absolutely.'"
"Faith is a good steward of people's money and she does a good job," McKee said. "When she calls, I help her no matter what it is."
McKee said it only took one day for his workers to install a foundation and assemble the gazebo. He then asked Tyler Stine, president of Advantage Property Management Inc. in Winchester, if he could add plants, a walkway and landscaping around the structure.
"Not only did they do landscaping, they mulched the entire facility," Power said, pointing to the professionally manicured trees, shrubs and flower beds that surround The Laurel Center.
Stine said he was happy to donate the extra work and materials because he wanted to ensure the gazebo was a coordinated component of the center's overall campus.
"We just needed to tie it all in to make sure everything flowed together and gave a feeling of comfort and serenity for the people to come out and enjoy an extended portion of the facility," Stine said. "The circumstances that brought them here [to the shelter] were not ones they chose. Helping them out is why we did what we did."
Stine's operations manager, Zach Weidlich, organized the crew that handled the landscaping project.
"This reminds me of a lot of the Eagle Scout projects I used to do," Weidlich said. "I just love doing things like this for the community."
Power said there are no words to express how grateful she is to Grace Lutheran Church, McKee, Stine, Weidlich and everyone else who stepped in to create a safe, serene haven that residents of The Laurel Center's emergency shelter will enjoy for years to come.
"I'm running a 20,000-square-foot main building, we have two other [smaller support] buildings, and I don't have a facilities person," she said. "To be able to call people like Danny and Tyler when we need help, and for them to respond so quickly and do it so well, it's a gift. It's truly a blessing."
Founded in 1981, The Laurel Center is the only nonprofit in the Northern Shenandoah Valley that provides free emergency shelter and support services to victims of domestic and sexual violence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more information, visit thelaurelcenter.org.
If you or your child are a victim of domestic or sexual violence, call 911 or The Laurel Center’s emergency hotline 24 hours a day at 540-667-6466.