Since February 2009, more than 600 women and children from East Central Minnesota have had a safe place to run from domestic violence through the opening of Black Dog Hill.
Black Dog Hill, operated through The Refuge Network, is the only emergency shelter in Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, Carlton, Pine and Aitkin counties, which encompasses more than 5,600 square miles and a population close to 200,000 people.
Since 1986, The Refuge Network’s mission has been to provide supportive services for people who are currently involved in or have been in an abusive relationship.
The core services include 24-hour crisis intervention, emergency shelter/safe housing, personal advocacy, legal advocacy, sexual assault advocacy, criminal justice advocacy, women’s support groups, youth services, community education, personal training, law clinics and mediation/paralegal services. All services are free and confidential.
The Refuge Network will be hosting its third annual gala, “Still Making Magic,” from 5:30-9 p.m. Oct. 8 at Spectacular Events Banquet Center in Isanti. The gala will feature a catered dinner buffet, as well as entertainment by Las Vegas magician Tim Gabrielson, who is also a graduate of Braham Area High School.
Gabrielson, who started performing at 16, has had national television appearances on “Crook and Chase” and repeated performances for the “Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.” He also starred in his own show at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay and starred in the legendary Mac King show at Harrah’s. His “keep it funny” philosophy is apparent throughout his laugh-a-minute-show, and he recently authored and published a book titled, “Lemons to Laughter.”
Proceeds from the event will go toward the operations of Black Dog Hill. Tickets are $50 per person, or $90 for two. A table of eight can be reserved for $350. Each ticket purchase includes a raffle ticket to win a one-third carat diamond courtesy of Chilson Jewelers. Tickets can be purchased by calling 800-338-7233, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.therefugenetwork.org.
The gala will also include a live auction featuring items such as a dinner and stay for two at Grand Casino, dinner at Grandma’s Restaurant in Duluth, dinner at Fogo de Chao in Minneapolis, an airplane ride for two courtesy of Sun Aviation and dinner for eight catered by Susan Morris. There will also be other various games and drawings throughout the evening.
Gala sponsors include Chilson Jewelers, John Hirsch Cambridge Motors, Loren and Lucy Nelson, Verizon Wireless, Thrivent-Chisago County Chapter, Kanabec State Bank and First Light Health Systems.
Black Dog Hill, located between Isanti and Chisago counties, provides shelter for up to 15 women and children. Approximately 75 to 80 percent of those staying at Black Dog Hill are from East Central Minnesota.
“The Refuge Network fights every day to end violence against women and children,” said Roxie Karelis, executive director of The Refuge. “We now also provide sexual assault advocacy in Isanti County. Our advocacy services and the shelter assure that safe emergency shelter, safety planning and support services are available for victims and their children. When battered women receive help to stop the violence in their home, the generational cycle of violence can be severed; children can learn non-violent means of resolving conflict, increasing the chances of developing and maintaining healthy relationships in their lives.”
The Refuge needs support from the community.
“If it wasn’t for Black Dog Hill, these women would be back with their abusers,” said Shelter Coordinator Char Weidendorf. “Black Dog Hill is always running at capacity. The greatest needs we see at the shelter are transportation, housing and employment opportunities. They need help with the process of moving on.”
While the women and their children can stay at Black Dog Hill as long as needed, most stay about a month before finding other safe housing.
“We try to provide a normal routine as much as possible while they stay with us,” Weidendorf said. “The children attend school, while we help their mothers with multiple resources including finding housing, another shelter, transitional housing, places to fix their vehicle, clothing from our thrift store. We do whatever we can to help them women get back on their feet.”
While The Refuge appreciates all the community support it receives, it needs continued funding.
“Our donations are down overall, both our physical and monetary donations,” Weidendorf said. “Funding is always a challenge for us.”
Karelis said community support is vital to the operation of Black Dog Hill.
“The community benefits when stable families reintegrate into the workplace, at schools and in neighborhoods,” Karelis said. “We believe providing services to victims and keeping families safe is the greatest contribution that we can make in our community. The geographic location of our facilities makes funding extremely challenging. We are outside of the Twin Cities seven county metro area and thus excluded from much urban funding. And, we are too close to the Cities to be considered ‘rural’ by others. Community support is absolutely vital to our mission. Each individual contribution makes a huge difference.”
Proceeds from the Pass it on Thrift Store, located at 138 Main St. in Cambridge, also support Black Dog Hill operations. The store is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Donations are accepted during business hours and volunteers are always needed. For more information on volunteering, call Dan at 763-220-9886.
The Refuge Network can be reached at 763-689-3532 in Cambridge, 651-257-2890 in Chisago City, and 320-679-1737 in Mora. The 24-hour crisis hotline is 800-338-7233 (SAFE). More information can also be found at www.therefugenetwork.org.