MORRISON – Whiteside County’s child advocacy center, April House, is readying to make a move next door.
But first, officials say, the center needs to acquire some additional funding.
April House is a place where victims of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and serious neglect go to be interviewed about the things they have endured. Up until recently, the center had been facing major financial problems because of lack of grants and a downturn in donations.
This summer, the county-owned center faced closure.
Since then, however, the center’s financial luck has turned, thanks in large part to a $12,500 United Way grant and a private donor who sought to match it.
Now the county is hard at work to make sure it stays open.
The next step to insuring the center’s future lies in establishing a new location, one that would meet the requirements outlined by the National Children’s Alliance and make it eligible for accreditation.
Accreditation with that organization would open April House up to being eligible for other grants, specifically a large one from the attorney general’s office that the center had relied on for years.
Currently housed in a yellow, county-owned house at 503 N. Madison St. in Morrison, the center is in serious need of major improvements.
A walk-through made it clear that to bring the 100-year-old building up to standards, necessary fixes would include work on the electric wiring, fixing a mold problem in the basement, and converting the bathroom into an ADA-accessible one.
It was determined during the fall that moving the center next door to the more modern gray house, also owned by the county, would be much less expensive. In November, the county board approved that request.
But the gray house isn’t without its faults, Whiteside County State’s Attorney Trish Joyce estimates that it, too, would have to go through about $20,000 worth of repairs.
And that’s where the Twin Cities Sunrise Rotary Club comes in.
Back in October, Johanna Hager, the center’s executive director and forensic interviewer, gave a presentation at the club’s meeting.
The club’s president, Dean Ahlers, said that club members were immediately interested in helping out with what they saw as a very worthy cause.
“It just sparked a lot of emotion in the club that day, and even before she left, we had already started a petition to see if we could raise some money,” Ahlers said. “And it snowballed from there.”
The club members took up a colleciton and offered their expertise in any way they could help out, Ahlers said.
So when a representative from the accreditation team came out to do a walk-through of the newly proposed site at the gray house, a few members from the club went along.
Two members in particular, one an engineer, and another a contractor, worked closely with Joyce and Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi to create a to-do list for the gray house.
“I think the club really came together on this,” Ahlers said. “And then we’ve got a large list of almost everybody on the club signed up to help out with the sweat equity when it comes down to it.”
Joyce said that because the rotary club offered to donate the labor, the only remaining cost would be to cover the materials needed – one she estimates to be about $8,000.
Contact Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi at 815-772-4044 or State's Attorney Trish Joyce at 815-772-5194.