Spreading their wings

Contributed photo

Members of Hope's Wings and Berea city officials break ground for the phase one expansion of the shelter. From left to right: Kim DeCoste, vice chair of the board, council member Emily LaDouceur, Jennifer Lainhart, director of Hope's Wings and Berea Police Chief Eric Scott. 

Executive Director of Hope's Wings Domestic Violence Shelter Jennifer Lainhart has had a lot to celebrate throughout October, which is domestic violence awareness month in the county and cities.

On Monday, Lainhart and the shelter's employees celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony for phase one of an expansion at the shelter, which will feature additional bedrooms, a bathroom and education center.

According to Lainhart, the expansion has been discussed for around a year, but announced on Monday that the approximate $250,000 project is now fully funded with the help of the Sunshine Lady Foundation, which donated a $200,000 grant to the project.

"It is a fantastic, fantastic gift to receive," Lainhart told The Register. "The day I got the phone call saying they finished and wanted to give us the grant, I was so ecstatic -- that was the best phone call I have ever gotten."

The Sunshine Lady Foundation was founded by Doris Buffett in 1996 with a mission statement to "help individual organizations and programs dedicated to providing opportunities for advancement of education, wellbeing and new life choices for disadvantaged people with special empathy for the working poor and families in crisis."

"Our visions and missions line up very well," Lainhart said.

The Hope's Wings Shelter has raised almost $75,000 by itself to help fund the expansion project throughout the spring and summer, which Lainhart said could not have happened without her dedicated group of staff and directors.

"It's a fantastic thing, and I have a super hardworking board of directors and staff who put their hearts into the efforts that made this happen," she said.

Also on Monday, Lainhart announced her aspirations for phase two of the expansion, something she calls a dream, which would make use of the shelter's additional five acres to build a separate four-plex apartment building to offer transitional housing services to survivors of domestic violence on-site.

"That would be where we want to go next," she said. "We are focused on getting phase one built and programs implemented, but we aren't going to put a lot of time in between the two phases, we would want to go straight into the next phase."

She said if the dream were to come true, the multiplex apartments would strengthen women who come through the program. In the last two phases of the shelter's programming, women are already reintroduced into the community to find jobs and separate housing.

Lainhart explained these two phases scare a lot of women who go through Hope's Wings as they are going back out on their own and into the open.

"You need a little bit more independence (in the later phases), and we can put them into the four-plex to learn independence and still have the security blanket of Hope's Wings," she said. "Phase three scares some women -- being on their own and out in the open again is scary, so this would give them extra time to build their confidence up before going out in the community. It could build a bigger success for the women who come through our program."

Lainhart said for phase one, the project would still need to go out to bid before a final construction schedule could be determined, but she foresees it to be completed in the next two to three years.

On Tuesday, the shelter will host the ninth annual "These Hands Don't Hurt" rally to celebrate the 95% of people who don't use domestic violence in their relationships.

"We talk a lot about the 5% of people that use domestic violence, but we want to draw attention also to those that don't, and the rally is a great way to do that," she said.

For those wanting to participate, the march will begin at the First Christian Church on East Main Street in Richmond at 5:30 p.m. Participants will be escorted by the Richmond Police Department down Main Street to end up at the county courthouse for a festival type atmosphere with food, music, games and inflatables.

Lieutenant Josh Hale with RPD will be speaking at the event about having integrity in relationships, and his experience with domestic violence while working on the force. Lainhart said that at the rally, the community will recognize the 33 people in Kentucky who have died this year from domestic violence to put names with the issue.

"Domestic violence is ugly, we are doing no one any favors by trying to bury things like that under the sand, too many people suffer from it, and too many women die from it," Lainhart said.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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