GREENSBURG – After all the dust and chaos involved in remodeling a home was finished and cleared away, New Directions Domestic Shelter recently presented a fresh new face to the community.
Celebrating with cookies, treats and tours, New Directions Director Leslie Straight and Case Manager April Richards proudly ushered guests through their new facility.
“We have been turning lemons into lemonade,” said Straight, pointing to the new lemon-themed curtains hanging in the bright and airy newly-remodeled kitchen at the shelter.
New Directions does not advertise or publish their exact location in the community to protect current residents, but with remodeling work on their newly acquired facility finally finished, the small staff of Greensburg’s domestic violence shelter has been met with plenty of sweet and sour developments.
With the work on the kitchen needing to be redone because of construction personnel challenges, the shelter has had to delay their grand opening as a full service domestic violence residence, but Straight and Richards are positive, upbeat and proud of all the work done on the facility, despite the challenges of recent months.
The new location, easily three times the size of the old facility with a fully functioning kitchen, spacious (dry) basement for laundry and storage, and enough bedrooms to sleep nine is the culmination of many years of hopeful thinking and prayers.
Down a set of stairs in the back of the shelter is a partially finished basement with a large food pantry, and ample room and equipment to wash and dry a family load of clothing.
“We’ve had the washer and dryer for a while, but they’re still working and we’re thankful,” said Straight as she led visitors through the basement space.
Walls lined with neatly organized laundry supplies, food and dry goods carry enough supplies to take care of a small family for more than just a few days. A chest freezer is on the wall beside the stairs, humming away.
“We need frozen foods,” Straight said.
In the central dining room, two kitchen tables and matching chairs can accommodate up to eight, with extra seating at a “kiddies” table. On the southern wall of the dining is a floor to ceiling, hand-built china cabinet that once served as the wall between the dining room and kitchen.
“The tables and the smaller one in the corner will be used for family meals, client services. Kids can do their homework here, we can have volunteer meetings. This will be a very functional room,” Straight said.
Including the basement, each room has been redesigned, paying homage to original woodworkers while adding modern functionality and convenience.
“A lot of the designs have been a team effort, and the donors have just been amazing,” Straight said.
Furnishings donated by Morning Breeze Retirement Center and design elements created as a project by local schoolchildren fill the spacious bedrooms on the third floor, with one larger bedroom currently designed in a “summer-camp” theme.
“The largest is our family bedroom,” said Straight. “Since it’s sometimes not a very cheery place for kids to be, considering their circumstances, we decided to call this the Summer Camp room to add some levity,” she said.
Each resident of New Directions is allowed to stay up to approximately 40 days.
Straight said housing is difficult to find locally, so if residents are actively trying to get back out on their own, those involved with the shelter will continue to help them.
“We don’t turn them out unless they are doing something that is actively compromising the safety of other residents or the facility itself.” she said.
As the cosmetic alterations to the space draw to a close, some internal structural work continues.
“When we are completely done, there will be a safety film on each window that will resist breakage, and sensors that will report when someone is trying to break in,” Richards said.
With everything is place to accomplish their long-awaited dream, there are still needs.
“We have a good staff of volunteers right now, but we always need more,” said Richards. “We’re still accepting applications for second, third and weekend shift caretakers, hourly employees tasked with the job of facilitating life inside the shelter, answering the phone, keeping the place clean and safe, helping kids with their homework, things like that.”
Experience is not necessary to apply for the shift positions.
New Directions gladly accepts donations of money, but does not take donations of clothing. Working with Goodwill, residents are often given “Goodwill Collect and Connect” coupons, allowing them to shop the Goodwill store while giving both organizations a tax break.
Needs of the shelter vary, but current needs are posted on their Facebook page (www.mynewdirections.org), or are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.