By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Cooke County —
Sunday’s open house tour of the Abigail’s Arms crisis center on East Highway 82 in Gainesville revealed an optimal environment for its future clients.
The center remains in development, with the $2 million capital campaign roughly 60 percent complete via private donations, and the facility itself was still filled with incomplete interiors during the tour.
“The community’s been very generous,” said official Brenda Kitchen. “It’s been amazing to have $25 at a time all the way up to thousands of dollars at a time. Of course, we like the larger gifts.”
But doors are set to officially open during late summer — and those in the position of becoming Abigail’s Arms residents will enter a place that appears to be less a shelter and more a welcoming home.
The 9,000-square-foot shelter houses up to 44 women and children, with families given private rooms made possible by individual donations of up to $25,000. Kitchen said the format of Abigail’s Arms generally accommodates a homeless domestic abuse victim for up to three months or longer while she attempts to find the resources to begin a new life by way of a job or additional education.
“As long as they’re making progress, we’re not going to kick them out,” Kitchen said.
And the private rooms, official Kelly Fiore-Watson told tourists, have been elevated through funding and design to exceed the standards some might attach to a crisis center. With ample dwelling space and high walls fresh with white paint, an incoming Abigail’s Arms resident receives furnishings similar to a room in a new hotel.
“I think unfortunately, a lot of times, people think of a shelter as being a gym with cots,” she said. “But this is a home; it’s like a bunch of apartments and we want it to be inviting. We need to let the community know that there is help and it’s good help.”
Sunday’s tour also provided preliminary glimpses at rooms set to become computer labs, a children’s indoor “play therapy” area, a community meeting room and a forensic interview room. Once complete, the facility will have staff and security 24 hours a day, every day. Up to 10 staff offices will be available and grounds will also include client parking, a children’s playground, a family room and full client access to the kitchen and dining facilities.
Abigail’s Arms Executive Director Kim Cook explained Sunday that the shelter, once finished, will have a fairly prominent appearance. Though designed to safely contain the clients who visit or live there, its presence near Highway 82 and an ongoing publicity campaign will draw attention to the shelter rather than keep it shrouded.
And that, she said, is exactly what officials want.
“When the community raises an awareness of what we do, then people say, ‘There’s Abigail’s Arms and I know somebody who needs that and I know where to take them,’” Cook said.
For more information the website www.abigailsarms.org.