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Local

April House renovation in the works in Morrison

Some donations still needed

MORRISON – Six members of the Twin Cities Sunrise Rotary Club showed up at 501 N. Madison St. on Tuesday afternoon, ready to work.

The reason? The renovation of a gray, county-owned home that is to be the new site of Whiteside County's child advocacy center, April House.

April House is a place where children – victims of varying types of abuse – go to be inerviewed by Johanna Hager, the county's forensic interviewer and the center's executive director, about the things they have endured.

The club is providing a lot of the funding, as well as the sweat equity needed for the center's big move. On Tuesday, the guys who showed up were building new door frames and laying down the groundwork for a new, soundproofed wall, which will create a separate room where officers and the state's attorney will watch the video-taped interviews conducted by Hager.

The victim's family members will be in a separate room, also soundproofed, where they'll watch movies, play games, and just wait until Hager's job is done.

But on this Tuesday, the volunteers zeroed in on that one wall, as well as the doorframes, which have to be newly shaped to fit doors that meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Gary Schopt is acting as a sort of liaison for the whole project, and Marv Lofgren, a former club member and retired contractor, is leading the charge when it comes to the technical stuff, like building and soundproofing a wall.

Last summer, the center faced closure because of a lack of grants and a downturn in donations.

Since then, however, its fortune has turned, thanks in large part ot a $12,500 United Way grant, and a private donor who sought to match it.

The next step to ensuring the center's future lies in its move from its current yellow house location to the more modern gray house next door. Modernizing the center's location would make it eligible for other grants, specifically a large one from the attorney general's office, which the center had relied on for years.

The gray house, though more modern than its 100-year-old neighbor, is not without its faults. It, too, required an extensive upgrade, which is where the Twin Cities Sunrise Rotary Club came in.

Back in November, Hager gave a presentation at one of the club's meetings. When members heard of its plight, and understood just how important the center was to the community, they were immediately interested in helping, Schopt said.

"The overlying motto of rotary is 'Service above self,' and that's really what this is all about," Schopt said. "This is something that, obviously it takes a little bit of skill to do it, but it's primarily just a matter of being willing to give your time to a worthwhile project. And this is certainly a worthwhile project."

Schopt said he expects the home's renovation to be completed within the next few weeks. Next Wednesday, volunteers will install the ADA-compliant doors, he said.

There's just one more thing April House needs: a new video system to record the victim's interviews, and the wiring system to go along with it.

"What's critical in this whole process is that video replaces the need for the child to appear in court," Schopt said, "so the child doesn't have to face the assailant, and yet the message still gets across."

The system currently used in the yellow house is out-of-date, but there's no way they're going to be able to afford a new one, Whiteside County State's Attorney Trish Joyce said – not without some help, at least.

To help

Contact Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi at 815-772-4044 or State's Attorney Trish Joyce at 815-772-5194.

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