Women’s Center to debut

LIHUE —  It has been 12 years since the YWCA of Kauai’s board of directors embarked on an ambitious plan to create a $2 million campaign to build a new women’s center, teen’s center and swimming pool.

Over the next decade, those costs rose to about $10 to $12 million while officials at the Lihue-based nonprofit raised money for the project, secured grants and waited for land negotiations to be finalized.

But by then, YWCA of Kauai Director Renae Hamilton said the board began to look at other alternatives.

“We couldn’t branch out, we couldn’t grow, and there were pukas (holes) in the community that we thought we could serve by providing more services,” Hamilton said.

When the former Kauai Community Federal Credit Union drive-thru and accounting building at 4410 Hardy Street in Lihue was put up for sale about two years ago, Hamilton said “all of the stars were beginning to align.”

So the board, she said, purchased the 3,400 square-foot property that summer and began plans to construct the future YWCA of Kauai Women’s Center.

All of that planning — and waiting — will come together within the next few weeks as the YWCA prepares to open the comprehensive center at the end of the month.

“It has been such a big work in progress,” said YWCA of Kauai Board President Emiko Meyers, who added that the vision for a Women’s Center has been in the works since she first became a board member in 2004. “It has taken different shapes over the years, but it’s exciting to finally see it come to fruition.”

It is a move that, Hamilton said, will allow the YWCA to expand services and provide new ones for the community.

 “We’re so close to being finished,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been very fortunate in terms of getting support from the community, lots of foundation grants, individual gifts and donations and proceeds from some of our events like the Never Forget Sandy G Tournament and Women’s Leadership Luncheon.”

Initial building estimates to renovate the Women’s Center, which includes several small, individual conference rooms for private counseling sessions and open work areas for the nonprofit’s activities and programs, ranged between $100,000 to $110,000.

Hamilton said those costs, however, rose to about $200,000 after the nonprofit had to replace the building’s air conditioning infrastructure.

The YWCA’s administrative operations, alternatives to violence programs for domestic violence offenders, and some of the nonprofit’s treatment programs will remain in their existing office space next door to the new building.

But other key functions, including the nonprofit’s in-person crisis services, counseling treatment program for sex assault victims and their families, and youth programs, will move into the new space.

“I keep pinching myself, because I’m so antsy to get in there,” Hamilton said. “We really have come a long way in terms of what the staff, the board and everyone involved in this project has created to ensure that we have a safe space that focused on women and girls and the community as a whole.”

The transition into the new building, she said, is particularly important for clients wanting to participate in the YWCA’s counseling treatment program.

Under the organization’s current contract through the state’s Department of Human Services, Hamilton said the organization only has enough funding to provide services for domestic violence victims, including lodging, food, clothes, support groups and legal services, while they’re staying at the nonprofit’s designated shelters.

“There’s nothing for them when they leave — there’s no follow up, there may be one follow up phone call or a couple check-ins, but there’s no financing or funding at all for us to be continue working with that family,” Hamilton said. “That’s a tough period, if someone is basically starting new, and if they have kids, there’s a lot of stress and a lot of changes.”

In the program’s new location in the Women’s Center, Hamilton said the nonprofit will be able to provide domestic violence victims and their families with additional counseling services by working with their insurance companies.

“When I think about the women who leave the shelter, it could be that it’s the first time on their own and that kind of thing is huge,” Hamilton said.

“I think the more support that we can provide where they know, ‘Hey, I can go talk to somebody, make them listen to me and have them understand what I’m going through,’ will give someone that added boost.”

There is, however, some work that still needs to be done.

The YWCA, Hamilton said, was recently awarded a state capital improvement grant that will allow the nonprofit to merge the parking lots between the Women’s Center and YWCA headquarters together, construct covered parking lots and install solar panels on top of them over the next several years.

The nonprofit, according to county documents, will also use a $98,560 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant to replace the building’s existing roof.

Work on that project, Hamilton said, will take place over the next several months but will not disrupt the planned move or interrupt any programs or services during that time.

“The (YWCA) board did such a great job with their vision and I think that this project overall positions the YWCA for many years to come,” Hamilton said. “We have the space, we’re able to enhance the programs that we have, we’re able to bring new things in and we’re able to keep it sustainable. I think that really does ensure the YWCA will be here for a long time, which is great.”

For more information, visit the YWCA of Kauai’s capital campaign website at www.empoweringourfuture.org or call 245-5959.

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.

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