By Carol Vaughn —
U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria toured the Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s new facility in Onancock during a visit to the Eastern Shore on Thursday, Jan. 27.
ESCADV announced in September it had purchased the former G.F. Horne Assisted Living Community property, which will allow the nonprofit organization to significantly expand services.
“This is just great, the opportunity to grow,” said Luria, after seeing the progress made to date on renovating the facility and hearing about plans for more to come.
ESCADV will kick off a capital campaign this month to pay for renovations to the property.
The organization provides emergency shelter, a 24-hour hotline, child services, case management, legal advocacy, accompaniment during hospital visits and court cases, support groups, and individual counseling, among other services it offers survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Cooperation with other groups in the community is key, according to Peaches Dodge, ESCADV board chairperson.
The five-acre property after renovations are completed will house a campus to include an emergency shelter, administrative and advocate offices, storage space for donated items, and space for education, support groups, and community outreach.
The property, purchased for $350,000 according to court records, includes three buildings.
A donation from David Landsberger made the purchase possible, according to a press release.
“We love it because we are not relocating in a real sense. People over the years … have grown to realize that if you need to come and get help, Onancock is where you come,” Dodge said.
Still, the facility, which dates to the mid-1980s, needs major renovations.
“It’s a project that we have estimated will be a $1.5 million dollar project,” Dodge said.
That includes three buildings and will be done in phases.
“Right away, we had to do all three roofs in order to stabilize the buildings,” Dodge said.
That was completed and interior work has begun in the first building, which will house the shelter.
The goal is to move into the new shelter this spring, hopefully by the end of April.
“So this is all happening really quickly,” Luria said.
Termite damage and mold are among the problems in the building that were uncovered and have had to be addressed.
The new shelter will accommodate 30 people, compared to the current one, a duplex with a 16-bed capacity — and less capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is regularly a need for 30 beds, according to Dodge.
The new shelter will have private rooms with attached bathrooms, a communal kitchen — including areas where people can cook for themselves if they wish, a recreation room, a laundry room, a vegetable garden, and a playground for children staying in the shelter.
Security measures will include 24-7 staffing and security fencing and locked gates, including for the parking area, among other measures.
“What we want is to make it a place where it’s safe and you can come and heal,” Dodge said, adding, “We know from our experience that people need healing time before they can really get traction again.”
She noted the organization has “an incredibly high rate of people who do not return to their abusers (around 85%) — and that’s important that we maintain. … So we are always thinking about the best ways that we can get them stable enough.”
Luria offered her assistance in seeking federal funding for the project.
“This seems like something that could be a good candidate” for congressional support, Luria said.
Community entities also are offering their assistance more and more as people begin to hear about the project.
The town of Onancock is giving $100,000 of its federal allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science-Eastern Shore Lab is donating furniture and equipment from its dormitory, which is available after VIMS’s own campus renovation.
Accomack-Northampton Electric Cooperative in partnership with weatherization agency Project:Homes is doing a complete evaluation of the facility for potential energy improvements and providing guttering.
The Eastern Shore Master Gardeners are providing gardens and the Shore’s garden clubs are donating playground equipment and plantings.
“The community has become so fabulously excited about what we are doing because we are going positively. … In a time when things are kind of in that state where you’re not sure what’s going on and people are sick and you know people who have died, unfortunately, here you are … and we can talk about something so positive,” Dodge said.
ESCADV will launch a capital campaign for the project in mid-February, with John Fiege as chairman. There are a variety of naming rights available, as well as tiers of giving with recognition on a plaque in the office lobby.
For more information about the campaign visit https://www.escadv.org/CampusCapitalCampaign
To donate, visit https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E194170&id=9 or mail checks with Capital Campaign in the memo line to ESCADV, P.O. Box 3, Onancock, VA 23417.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, ESCADV maintains a confidential, 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week hotline for those impacted by domestic violence and/or sexual assault. ESCADV’s hotline phone number is (757) 787-1329.