Twenty-three years ago Tri-County Protective Agency Executive Director Paula Foerstel manned a domestic abuse crisis line. Part of her job was to temporarily house victims of domestic violence in area motel rooms, Foerstel recalled. Then, two local families each donated a house for use as a permanent shelter, she said. The 92nd Engineer Battalion at Fort Stewart donated labor by connecting the two buildings, she said.
“They constructed a middle wing to provide a kitchen and dining room,” she explained.
“The Tri-County Protective Agency opened in February 1988,” Foerstel said. “And I was the first worker here.”
After 22 years of continuously sheltering battered women and their children, the old shelter building became worn and in need of constant repair, Assistant Director Cheryl Hughes said.
“We just couldn’t keep putting Band-aids on it,” Hughes said. “It did its job and we’re grateful for the time we had it. But this place was a dream Paula had for years and years.”
The “dream-come-true” for Foerstel is the agency’s new $227,000, 4,000-square-foot shelter built by Riverside Construction in Glennville. The floor plan is based on a design Foerstel and Hughes drew and submitted to builder David Futch and his architect.
Foerstel said most of the furniture was bought at wholesale prices from Quality Furniture in Hinesville.
“We broke ground last February and moved in before Thanksgiving,” Hughes said.
The airy, open floor plan includes bedrooms, offices, a nursery, a TV lounge, a spacious living room, large kitchen, dining room, a washer and dryer and plenty of storage. Comfy sofas, breezy window treatments and soft-colored walls serve to soothe clients and provide a homey atmosphere, Hughes said.
There’s even a pre-school room fully stocked with toys, books and children’s furniture, courtesy of St. Anne Catholic Church in Richmond Hill. Hughes said St. Anne members donated all the items needed for the preschool room.
“They were wonderful,” she said.
The agency’s board members gave hands-on support through the facility’s construction phase, Hughes said. One board member decorated the jungle-themed nursery herself.
Hughes said the shelter also received a $25,000 donation from an anonymous donor in Bryan County, in memory of James and Elizabeth Brogden.
“There were so many organizations in Liberty, Bryan, Long and Tattnall counties that helped with this project,” she said. “It was a tremendous undertaking.”
The shelter can house up to 12 clients and their children, Hughes said.
“If we get full, we contact other shelters in our circuit. We see if they have beds available until we can house them here,” she said. “They still get the same services as if they were here.”