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Becci Leonard is executive director of the Headwaters Intervention Center in Park Rapids. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Headwaters Intervention Center in Park Rapids sees success, needs funding

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When Becci Leonard came on board last fall as executive director of the Headwaters Intervention Center she found a "strong basis" of programs.

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"It was so exciting. I saw so much potential. Audrey (Iverson) laid an amazing foundation," she said of the advocacy program founded in Park Rapids in 1978.

"I see success," Leonard said of clients gaining a safety network, resource awareness and self-empowerment.

"And the community has embraced the path," she said.

But while the program is sturdy, on a solid foundation, the HIC building is in need of repair, some of the infirmities coming to light in recent weeks.

The decades-old house, which is mortgage-free, is in need of a new roof, as evidenced by ceiling tiles, discolored from the leaks.

Insulation is needed in the attic and the "ancient, inefficient" furnace needs to be replaced.

A Raise-the-Roof fundraiser was initiated in November with Summerhill on Main hosting a kick-off. An estimated $4,000 is needed for this project.

The HIC is also sponsoring an Adopt-a-Room program to add aesthetic luster to the three transitional housing units upstairs.

"When a client walks in the door, they are at one of the toughest spots in their entire lives," Leonard said. "We would like the rooms to be warm, safe and inviting," with character and color.

She describes the rooms now as "basic." The furniture is functional. "But we'd like to inspire hope and change."

The clients arriving at the HIC "know no boundaries," she said of race and financial status. "Some come with nothing but the clothes on their back."

The basis of the non-profit agency is "strong programs," she said, "for kids and adults."

Last fiscal year, October 2009 to September 2010, the HIC served 172 primary victims and 58 children.

In the first quarter of FY 2010-11, October through December, HIC served 75 new primary clients. Children are considered "primary" also if they are in the home at the time of the incidents.

This is an increase from last year. Financial issues, job loss and home foreclosures exacerbate domestic violence.

The HIC is funded through the state Office of Justice and private donations, but funds are being funneled for heating and repair costs, as opposed to the programs, Leonard said.

"We want the building at peak efficiency," she said, so the staff can concentrate on the human aspect of the program.

Three part-time employees and Leonard serve clients at the HIC. "It's a great staff, wonderful. It's not a job to them. They legitimately care about the people walking through the doors."

Their roles range from clerical and janitorial to advocates, for adults and youth.

And the community at large lends time and talents.

Board members are Chris Broeker, Florence Hedeen, Jonathan Frieden, Linda Schissel, Mary Shequen-Smith, Sara Swanson, Marie Dearstyne and Frank Homer.

The Nevis Study Club has taken on domestic violence as their focus of support. Alpha Delta Kappa has been an ongoing contributor. Hubbard County Sentence to Serve has kept the sidewalks and driveways shoveled and plowed this winter. And the Salvage Depot has contributed toward remodeling bathrooms.

Hubbard County services are "extremely strong," said Leonard, who served as a coordinator for a four-county intervention program in Montevideo before moving to Park Rapids.

Services address domestic abuse and transitional housing. HIC administers a program that sends kids to camp, via a Pohlad grant. The SAFE Parks Program entertains children in the summer. The Home Again Furniture Center is housed in the center's garage.

This year, 212 kids headed to school with bags full of new supplies. And Kids Konnection provides supervised visitation and safe exchanges of children.

Leonard is currently working on an art therapy program, employing art to address bullying, teen dating violence and other issues youth face.

"Kids can use art to release stress through expression," she explained.

"The need is here," Leonard said of services for domestic abuse victims. "Those rooms are always full. Here they are connected to resources, so they can be safe."

And with the Legislature trimming programs, "funding may be on the chopping block."

Ideally, she would like each program to become self-sustaining through fundraising. The art therapy class may sell jewelry, for example.

A summer family walk may serve as a fundraiser.

Meanwhile, donations to raise the roof, adopt a room or give a gift toward general building needs may be sent to the Headwaters Intervention Center at PO Box 564, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

Volunteers - enabling victims to go from crisis to confidence - are welcome.

Contact the HIC at 732-7413 for more information.

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