Jennifer Salaba, lead case manager; Laura Bryan, housing navigator for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP); Scottie Ard, housing navigator for Grace Place; Cameryn Matson, YHDP case manager and Gretchen Westphal, case manager Grace Place.

It’s a typical evening at Grace Place shelter in New Richmond, Wis. Some residents gather to watch television. Others are taking a class with a dietician in the kitchen. Some are busy mopping floors. There is no janitorial service, so residents clean the shelter themselves.

Life at Grace Place is very “homey,” said Randy Calleja, advisory board chairman for the St. Croix Service Extension Unit which encompasses Grace Place. “It’s like being in a family—a very big family.”

In 2014, The Salvation Army purchased a vacant nursing home from Presbyterian Homes to be used for Grace Place. With that purchase, Grace Place, formerly located in Somerset, Wis., expanded from a 24-bed to a 64-bed facility.

The cost of the building was $1.

Today, Grace Place continues to be a home for those temporarily without one.

“In our area, we are the only 24-hour staffed shelter within five counties,” said Duana Bremer, service extension unit director.

Each family gets its own room. Singles share a room with another person. All meals are provided. The average stay is 38 days, but people have stayed up to 120 days, Duana said.

Former Grace Place resident Glenn Row stops by for a visit with lead case manager Jennifer Salaba.

It took eight months from its purchase to the shelter’s opening day.

More than 200 volunteers brought the building back to life. Randy was part of a committee that raised $265,000 for Grace Place in just six months.

“The whole community got involved,” Duana recalled. “The entire building, inside and outside, was painted by volunteers. More than 7,000 community hours of volunteerism were given for things like painting, plumbing and electrical work. A sprinkler company donated labor to put in a sprinkler system.”

A $90,000 boiler was donated by a family foundation, Randy recalled.

“All of the mattresses were donated; all of the pillows were donated. We just wrote letters to companies, and box trucks showed up,” he added.

Kari Clark, media manager at Grace Place, at left, with Duana Bremer, service extension unit director.

Community members, businesses and other organizations were asked to sponsor rooms and handle all of the furnishings and decorating. Every room is custom-designed.

The New Richmond Running Club sponsored the kids’ playroom. Club members painted a colorful, nature-themed mural in the room.

“Every year we call our sponsors and say we need new bedspreads or new blankets, etc.,” Duana said.
“Almost all of the sponsors who originally sponsored a room come back and paint their room and fix it so it stays nice-looking.”

Grace Place is unique, according to Duana.

“We have a computer lab with six donated computers,” she said. “A local school district came in and set it all up for us.”

Students from Northwoods College volunteer their time to help residents with resumés and other projects that require computers.

“And we have a children’s tutoring program. We work with retired teachers who come in three days a week to tutor the kids. The tutors will also go [with parents] to school conferences or assist children with Independent Education Plans at school. Our whole goal with tutoring is to get them uplifted out of poverty,” Duana said.

The meal program is supported by volunteers, different church or civic groups which purchase, prepare and deliver dinner to Grace Place each night—everything from turkey dinners to spaghetti and casseroles.

Residents always dine together.

“We require them to be there at mealtime unless they are working,” Duana said, adding that it helps create a sense of camaraderie. “We say grace together and eat together.”

Volunteer Marianne Skifstad delivers supplies which are accepted by residents Anthony Kralewski and Angela Hoisington.

Perhaps one of the most unique programs is foot-care. Nurses from three local churches in the community come to the shelter once a month to provide medical treatment.

“Many of the residents’ feet are in horrible condition. They are a mess, and they hurt,” Duana explained.

Grace Place is involved in a number of community events throughout the year. One of the highlights is “Shop with a Cop.”

Families-in-need get assistance with buying school clothes. Kids also receive backpacks with school supplies. There are bicycle giveaways, hot dogs to eat and much more.

“We wanted to help develop a good relationship between law enforcement and low-income kids,” Duana explained. “This is a huge community event.”

It’s one of the many ways The Salvation Army is making a difference in St. Croix. Regardless of the event or program, Grace Place has a daily mission to provide hope.

 

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