For the first time in its history Project ReNeWal, the domestic violence shelter for women and children, has been closed due to extensive water damage that not only destroyed much of the building, but all of the contents inside as well.
A certified domestic violence shelter that services Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties, the shelter was damaged June 29 when the attic fire sprinkler system malfunctioned and dumped 18,000 gallons of water on the building and its contents.
Everything in the two-story building was lost to water damage. Not only did two client apartments get destroyed, but so did all of the shelter's donated clothing, toiletry items and household goods used for clients of the shelter. It also means the loss of 18 jobs, including shelter manager, children's advocate, a counselor and others who are critical for the day-to-day operation of the shelter.
"Pretty much everything we had in the building is ruined due to water damage," said Executive Director Vickie Stevenson. "The staff right now will not be back in the facility for probably four to six weeks," she added.
Supplies that were ruined by the water have also now been contaminated by mold. The eight families who called the shelter home had to be relocated to other shelters — some as far away as two hours from their workplaces. Many neighboring domestic violence shelters are filled to capacity, a huge problem not only for Project ReNeWal, but also for the state, which ranks sixth in the nation for women being injured or killed by boyfriends or husbands.
The damages are estimated at roughly $250,000 — just for the building, which is owned and managed by the Rockdale Hospital Authority. While the building is covered by their insurance, the items inside are covered by the shelter’s insurance.
And although some of the items will be covered, currently the insurance carrier will not cover the amount that was damaged.
"We’ll fight the battle to get everything replaced," said Covington Police Lt. and Board President Paul Dailey. Project ReNeWal has been operating since 1995. In 2011 alone they provided more than 12,000 services to 1,827 individuals living in violent homes. It is the only domestic violence shelter in Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties.
"The community always provides the support we need to help families in crisis," said Stevenson. "I have been working at Project ReNeWal for 10 years and the community has never let us down. What we do is so important to everyone as domestic violence touches all of our lives in some way."
While they are not taking donations of clothing or toiletries since they currently have no place to store them, the shelter is taking monetary donations. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Project ReNeWal. P.O. Box 1205, Conyers. 30012. For information call (770) 860-9770.