The American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation today announced its commitment of $1,500,000 to help build a new shelter for CHOICES, the only domestic violence shelter and 24-hour crisis hotline in Franklin County. The investment and partnership with CHOICES, ensuring victims of intimate partner violence have resources to find safety and begin healing, underscores the AEP Foundation’s commitment to the central Ohio community.
“Our Community’s Campaign for CHOICES” was announced on June 14, 2016 as a response to the overwhelming need for a new shelter to temporarily house victims of domestic violence and offer critical resources and programming. The current shelter is often overcrowded, and at one point, housed more than 100 victims and their children; double what the facility is configured to hold.
“The AEP Foundation has long been a supporter of organizations that provide services to those struggling with hunger, housing and safety, and we are committed to enriching the quality of life for all community members,” said Dale Heydlauff, vice president, AEP Corporate Communications and president, AEP Foundation. “There is an immense need so it is essential that Franklin County businesses, organizations and individuals continue to band together to support CHOICES as they work to build a new facility to help victims escape the abuse and begin to heal.”
The new 55,000-square-foot facility will increase the number of beds from 51 to 120, growing capacity by 135 percent. The new shelter, inspired by a national best practice design for domestic abuse healing called “Building Dignity”, includes state-of-the-art security, a secure outdoor playground and garden for shelter residents, as well as kennels and exercise areas for family pets. Among the unique staffing plans for the shelter are an on-site crisis counselor, a kitchen advocate to work one-on-one with survivors to redevelop healthy relationships with food, and a family activities coordinator to support parents on parenting techniques and a child’s transition to the shelter.
“Leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for a victim, and it is critical they have a safe place to go and begin to heal from emotional and physical wounds,” said Sue Villilo, executive director of CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence. “We need a new shelter with the capacity and resources to help end the cycle of violence and provide essential services to victims in our community.”
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, and it cuts across all socio-economic, race and religious boundaries. One in every three women and one in four men will experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In Franklin County alone, police departments responded to nearly 7,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2015.
Other central Ohio organizations that have committed support through leadership gifts include Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, Worthington Industries Foundation and The McConnell Family Foundation, Huntington Bank, Wolfe Associates, The Columbus Foundation and the State of Ohio. To date, more than $10 million has been raised for the shelter campaign.
The $15.3 million comprehensive campaign will not only fund construction of the new building, but also land acquisition, three years of incremental operating and programming expenses, the implementation of new programming, and a building maintenance fund. The CHOICES endowment will support the shelter’s greatest immediate and emerging needs.
For more information on the new shelter and CHOICES Our Community’s Campaign, please visit http://www.lssnetworkofhope.org/choices/new-shelter/.