October 20, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.

Network of shelter, aid and alternatives marks its 25th year

Network of shelter, aid and alternatives marks its 25th year
Network of shelter, aid and alternatives marks its 25th year

When a host of concerned people came together 25 years ago to establish The Refuge Network, they couldn't have chosen a better name for their organization; because since 1986 the Isanti-Chisago County based group has remained true to its mission providing refuge to victims of domestic violence.

There wasn't a shelter right away, that didn't come along until 2009. In the beginning it was all about outreach and educating the community, setting up a hotline and training court advocates to walk people through the legal system.

There were also volunteers who let abuse victims stay in their private homes and others who worked behind the scenes raising funding.

"Nobody deserves to be abused" has been the motto for The Refuge and for one-quarter-of-a century volunteers and staff have carried that message throughout Kanabec, Chisago and Isanti counties. There are five paid leadership staff members who direct the operations of the three-county network and coordinate the shelter (the property was gifted to the organization) and also coordinate legal advocacy, do public education and there is an administrative assistant.

Last week a rare evening was set aside to celebrate accomplishments and generate excitement for the next 25 years.

At a gala held at Stars & Stikes in Wyoming, old timers and newcomers dined, toasted, reminisced and brainstormed for what The Refuge Network faces as new challenges.

Sponsors for the gala included: Landmark Bank, Stellar Kent, Polaris, The RiverBank (now Central Bank) Margaret Johnson-Barr (a founding Board member), Mary Kaye (cosmetics giant) Sandberg Funeral and Cremation Services and Kanabec State Bank.

The Refuge Network continues to promote its "500 Club" which is a systematic program for donors of all levels to support the work of the organization in a predictable way. The program asks for $125 per year for four years as your pledge and donations can increase from this level. Congregations, civic groups, individuals and businesses have signed onto the "500 Club."

Periodically the organization puts out a wish list for needed goods and special supplies. You can always contact them if you have something to donate that might be of use at the office or the shelter.

Since the Black Dog Hill Shelter opened in 2009 there have been 367 women and children assisted at the shelter. In 2010 the First Call for Help had 1,549 calls that each required follow-up contacts after the initial call. When the hotline started in 1986 there were 153 calls.

In response to domestic abuse 4,800 women and 6,000 children receive emergency shelter in Minnesota each year.

For details contact the headquarters in Cambridge at 763-689-3532 or go to the website www.therefu genetwork.org.

The present day Board of Directors includes: Sheriff Rick Duncan, Diane Rasmussen, Tim MacMillan, Amy Reed-Hall, Loretta Anderson, Susan Morris, Kim Calhoun, Dody Johnson, Kevin Troupe, Colette Candelot, and 2011 Board Chair is Pastor Doug Larson.


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