Duluth shelter enters the music businessby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
Twin Cities-based rock band White Light Riot will headline a music festival in Duluth this weekend. It's a fund-raiser for the battered women's shelter in town.
It's the first time the shelter has put on a concert to raise money.
Shelter workers say cuts in government funding are forcing them to be creative in coming up with their own sources of money.
Duluth, Minn. — Volunteers started the Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women nearly 30 years ago. They never thought they'd be in business this long -- let alone growing.
A few years ago they built a new building in a quiet Duluth neighborhood. It has rooms for 39 people, a big kitchen and dining room, a playroom for the kids. At the moment the playroom is filled with mattresses, because 68 people are staying here.
Meanwhile, shelter workers are on to the next thing: a $1.2 million "family justice center" across the street from the courthouse in downtown Duluth.
It'll provide space for the shelter's legal advocates, but also for the police, prosecutors, social service agencies, therapists, and even medical people.
Executive Director Susan Utech says it'll be a one-stop shop for abuse victims.
"To get their needs met, we estimate that in Duluth they would have to go to 15 different agencies," she explains. "And this is the vision where the agencies come to the woman and therefore she's not as likely to go back to her abuser for lack of resources."
The project was on a short list for federal funding, but didn't make the final cut. Now the shelter is trying to raise the money locally for the building and for the shelter's legal advocacy program.
And that's where this weekend's festival comes in.
An intern at the shelter asked her friends in the up-and-coming Twin Cities band White Light Riot if they'd be willing to do a benefit concert.
When they said yes, Ed Heisler was put in charge of the event. He's the shelter's Community Education Coordinator.
"And before we knew it, we had a lot of bands who were willing to come and play for free for us," he says. "And it was just an incredible thing, and we decided we've got five weeks, we'll put it together, and we'll do it! It's been a lot of work, but I think it's worth it. It's been a lot of fun; we're learning a lot."
And they're learning not just about how to put on a concert, but also about how to build awareness and support in the community.
"We've got media contacts I didn't even dream about having," Heisler says. "We've got sponsorships from businesses that are very much interested in helping out with the cause, and of course in the process of doing that, they end up finding out things about the shelter, and there's a good relationship that gets built there."
And putting on a concert is a lot more exciting than writing another grant proposal. Even shelter residents are helping out.
Autumn -- who didn't want to use her last name -- will speak about her experience as part of the festival program.
"I've lived with abuse for 10 years, me and my daughter, and it came down to the point where my abuser almost killed me," she says.
She spent four months in the shelter last winter.
"They gave me lot of resources to help myself out, and get on my feet, and go on my own, and now I'm doing awesome!"
She says talking about abuse and the services at the shelter is part of her healing process.
"I feel great. But for this festival I think it's even more great," she says. "Because we're out there. We're out and about and we are actually in the public, saying 'Hey, this is happening.' Just to be aware and have a good time at the same time."
Ed Heisler gives a tour of the shelter to members of White Light Riot, in Duluth for a promotional appearance at a local record store.
The band members pay close attention. Singer Michael Schwandt says working together for the greater good is what the band is all about. "I feel like us finding each other as a band was kind of a blessing on ourselves -- it just worked, the first practice it was instant chemistry," he says. "So if we can take the talent of playing music and use it for other things, I think that's really great."
The Festival to End the Violence is Sunday from noon to 9 at Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park.
- Morning Edition, 07/13/2007, 7:25 a.m.