Pamper yourself while supporting the fight against domestic violence

Enjoy a day of pampering while supporting an organization that helps women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.

The Refuge Network is hosting its fifth annual Women’s Gathering and Expo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Cambridge Lutheran Church. The event is free for women ages 18 and older.

The expo is a fundraising event for The Refuge Network’s domestic violence shelter, Black Dog Hill, located between Isanti and Chisago County.

The event will include exhibitors, crafters, vendors, a bake sale, food and a silent auction that features many different items including a Minnesota Twins prize basket.

The expo will also feature a special exhibit by Cambridge artist Shirl Chouinard who depicts different works of art associated with domestic violence. Chouinard is an activist artist who is known for her poignant reused, repurposed and recycled work that centers on domestic violence and child abuse.

An example of artwork by Shirl Chouinard.
An example of artwork by Shirl Chouinard.

Black Dog Hill opened in February 2009 and is the only emergency shelter in Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, Carlton, Pine and Aitkin counties, which encompasses over 5,600 square miles and a population close to 200,000 people.

Since 1986, The Refuge Network’s mission has been to help bring an end to domestic violence by providing supportive, nonjudgmental services. The core services include 24-hour crisis intervention, emergency shelter/safe housing, safety planning, case management, legal advocacy, support groups, school-based violence prevention curriculum, community education and professional training. All services are free and confidential.

Black Dog Hill provides shelter for up to 15 women and children, with more than 600 women and children finding safety at the shelter since its opening.

“Black Dog Hill is always running at capacity,” Shelter Coordinator Char Weidendorf explained. “These women are all at various stages of needed help, resources and support.”

Weidendorf said The Refuge Network continues to be a needed service for the community. Last year The Refuge served more than 1,800 first-time crisis calls and more than 7,700 follow-up calls.

“The community needs to realize this is an important organization to support, and we are working hard to continue to meet the needs of our clients,” Weidendorf said. “All the support we receive — past and present — is appreciated by everyone in the agency and the clients we serve.”

For more information on the expo, contact Jen at 763-286-4159 or Cindy at 800-338-7233. The Refuge is still accepting vendor registrations for the event.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

In conjunction with April as Child Abuse Prevention month, The Refuge is embarking on a Blue Ribbon Campaign.

The campaign includes area businesses either selling blue ribbons for $1 or placing a mason jar at the counter for people to drop donations into. All proceeds from this campaign benefit Black Dog Hill.

Blue Ribbon participants in Cambridge include: Hair Mania, Caribbean Tan, Pass It On Thrift Store, BP Gas Station, Affordable Auto, Chilson Jewelers and Cambridge Christian Bible Bookstore. Businesses in Braham include: Main Street Market & Deli, Braham Liquor, Hair & Body on Main and Braham BP Gas Station. Also participating is the Brass Rail in Grandy and Landmark Community Bank in Isanti.

In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to prevent child abuse began as a Virginia grandmother’s tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse.

The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across the country; many people wear blue ribbons each April in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse and in support of efforts to prevent abuse.

Legislative Action

Weidendorf explained The Refuge visited the State Capitol for Action Day on March 12. She explained each year, from around the state, domestic violence and sexual programs gather together to increase awareness and engage lawmakers in efforts to end violence.

“We had an extremely busy, but fulfilling and productive day meeting with 11 different legislators,” Weidendorf said. “We are always speaking about awareness and explaining who we are and who we are serving. Good, positive information was given to the legislators, and two of the legislators, Rep. Tim Faust and Sen. Tony Lourey, then visited Black Dog Hill to learn more.”

Community Support

Weidendorf explained Isanti Mary Kay consultant Sharon Servaty is taking part in a Mary Kay makeover contest, with the winner of the contest receiving $5,000 to donate to the charity of her choice.

Weidendorf explained Servaty chose The Refuge Network as her charity. There isn’t any monetary donation involved with the contest; all participants need to do is a makeover with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, and then Servaty submits them into the contest. For more details on this contest, contact Servaty at 763-444-4814 or at 612-756-2977.

Weidendorf also explained Hair Mania in Cambridge recently hosted a special day for the women and children at Black Dog Hill. The day included haircuts, colors, manicures, a catered lunch and goodie bags with special prizes.

More Information

For more information on The Refuge Network, visit or call 763-689-3532. The 24-hour toll free crisis hotline is 1-800-338-SAFE (7233). Advocates are available 24 hours a day. All services are free and confidential.