After a “dedicated” eight-year search, Women’s Information Services found a new location on nine acres of green property.
Known as WISE, the women’s shelter will be purchasing a home in Big Rapids Township with $500,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The Big Rapids Pioneer reports that the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners unanimously supported this fund allocation at the Oct. 19 meeting.
“Our goal is not to let them start a project they don’t have the funds secured and committed to, so they don’t get halfway through the project and can’t finish it,” Commissioner Bill Routley said in the Pioneer.
The exact location of the shelter is typically not discussed to maintain the safety of the 19 women and children staying at WISE.
WISE director Jane Currie shared with the Torch that her team’s dedication to this project paid off.
“We could not have found a better place, and I mean that,” Currie said.
Because the new location sits on a large property, Currie believes that it will be a beneficial source of “green therapy” for WISE’s residents. Green therapy is defined as a nature-based approach to healing.
WISE currently functions as a 115-year-old Victorian home with four bedrooms. Currie stated that WISE has “plenty of opportunity for future growth” in the new location.
“It’s not a new home, but it’s a home that’s been extremely well cared for,” Currie said.
They are now planning how to use a six-bedroom space. These plans include a meeting room, multiple community rooms and even outdoor space.
Currie appreciates the work that different groups from Ferris have offered WISE over the years. The shelter is looking to plan more tutoring opportunities with their young residents, bringing volunteer opportunities to the Big Rapids community.
“Kids need to be read to,” Currie said. “A lot of times when moms come in, they’re just not in the place for that. “It would be nice if a volunteer group wanted to come in to read to our kiddos.”
WISE offers internships to students and has received funds from organizations such as Alpha Sigma Tau. The sorority recently held WISE Week with bake sales and a “walk in her heels” event.
“We love fundraising for WISE because we believe that women in all different times of life should be supported,” AST commented to the Torch. “WISE week always has a great turn out and this was one of our best ones. We will continue to support WISE as long as we can.”
Ferris’ Anti-Violence Alliance is a longtime partner of WISE’s. Violence Prevention Coordinator and Ferris alum Sydney Mingori sees great value in WISE’s presence in the township.
“It is absolutely important to have a shelter for [domestic violence] like WISE in any town, and from what I understand, WISE will be getting a new and bigger location to better house survivors of domestic violence,” Mingori said. “With this new location, they will be able to house and provide resources for the community.”
Mingori believes that the partnership is mutually exclusive. The AVA can pay WISE through a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women and the shelter contributes to on-campus prevention efforts in return.
“Through our partnership with WISE, we can offer confidential and free victim service to students, staff, faculty, as well as the community of Big Rapids,” Mingori said. “This allows us to provide the community with an equitable resource to increase healthy and safe livelihoods.”
To become more involved in violence prevention, Mingori encourages students to “strengthen their tool belt” through education and weeding out misinformation.
For more information on the needs of those staying at WISE, visit their website, wiseagainstviolence.org ,or Facebook page.