Archived Story

Polly’s Place to reopen with renewed mission

Published 8:12pm Thursday, August 18, 2011

After a couple of misfortunes forced it to close its doors, Polly’s Place is reopening, having reorganized itself in the organization’s mission to provide help victims of domestic violence and abuse.
The reopening will begin with a full slate of fall fundraisers to help kick off what general manager Paul Leonard Jr. hopes will be a prosperous new beginning for Polly’s Place as it reaches out to help women break free from abuse and start a new life of their own.
“We have new leadership, new board members and we’ve also reconnected with the Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network,” Leonard said.
Prior to its closing, Polly’s Place experienced a couple of its own misfortunes, which set the organization back and forced it to reorganize.
“There was the vandalism,” Leonard said. “And we had an embezzlement.”
In July 2010, David Mangena was sentenced to jail time and restitution in the amount of no more than $15,000 after he embezzled from Polly’s Place. The crime came after the non-profit organization was struggling to recover from previous vandalism to its facilities.
“So that set us back,” Leonard said. “And then of course, the funding has always been an issue as far as having enough money to operate.”
That is where the full slate of fundraisers comes in.
Leonard, along with his new board of directors, have scheduled their first event for Sept. 18, when volunteers will work to restore and ready the organization’s home for several families.
A “Pedal for Polly’s Place” fundraiser will be held Oct. 2. The ride will last from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Starting at Garden Hill Farms, 14643 Rangeline Rd. in Buchanan, participants will ride a 20-mile scenic route. Registration is $25 per person.
A celebration will follow the ride with food and prizes and registration forms can be picked up at local bike shops.
A silent auction is also planned for Nov. 6 at the Bell Building in downtown Niles.
“The overall goal is to be self-sustaining,” Leonard said.
Each of the events scheduled is part of Polly’s Place long-term goals as an organization to become self-sustaining, which in turn will help fuel its mission to end the cycle of abuse for so many.
“We’re now known as Polly’s Place Home and Healing Center,” Leonard said.
Not an emergency shelter, Polly’s Place will work on helping women and children feel empowered.
“We’re a program where the women and the children come here with the idea they are going to begin to address their issues in their lives,” Leonard said.
In addition to looking at how to get out of abusive relationships and identifying those patterns of abuse, Leonard said Polly’s Place will also offer case management services, food and clothing assistance, references to legal aid, help with employment as well as inviting speakers to talk about various related topics and issues.
“It’s all about healing, empowerment,” Leonard said. “We look at the total person. We have a real structured program where they have a set schedule, they cook together as a house … it’s a real structured program. They can stay longer than eight weeks, but normally they’re here for eight weeks.”
Leonard started out as a volunteer for the organization and later became board chairman.
“I don’t come from an abusive background,” he said. “But I’ve known people who have been abused and I’ve worked in the social services so I’m familiar with the dynamic of domestic abuse.”
In the interest of stopping a problem that he said has gotten worse, possibly due in part to tough economic times, Leonard is hoping to educate others and get involved with the community.
“Oh, absolutely it seems to be increasing,” he said. “There’s many reasons but I think some of it has to do with the economy. (But domestic abuse) is multi-faceted.”
As part of Polly Place’s long-term plan, Leonard hopes to get more involved with local and area churches and schools to provide education on what is domestic abuse, how people can identify and be aware of abuse and what they can do to help.
“We have to get the word out to people that there’s help,” Leonard said. “And help people understand why someone maybe doesn’t reach out for that help.”
For more information on the fundraisers or events coming up for Polly’s Place or to offer volunteer services, go online to www.pollysplaceniles.org or call 687-9822.

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