As supporters of a local domestic violence prevention organization gathered Thursday morning, Orange County families were waking up the newly-constructed shelter the group had met to celebrate.
Laura’s House, an organization that provides local shelter services and counseling to women and families impacted by domestic violence and abuse, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to mark the grand opening of its new emergency shelter.
The project has been years in the planning, said Margaret Bayston, CEO and executive director of Laura’s House.
"To be the biggest shelter in the county ... all the hard work was worth it," she said Thursday. "Now it's up to us to help those families."
On Wednesday, the first occupants moved into the new shelter, which is in an undisclosed location to protect those who live there. The shelter project increases the organization’s capacity from 28 beds to 44 beds and 10 cribs, expanding its room by 93 percent—and capacity countywide by 15 percent.
The nonprofit arm of the Building Industry Association of Orange County, HomeAid Orange County, partnered with Laura’s House in the construction of the shelter.
Local construction experts led the building effort, spearheaded by Laguna Niguel man Rick Lutzky.
Lutzky said that the project inspired some contractors to donate their materials and services free of charge after hearing about the Laura's House mission to help those impacted by domestic violence.
, marking the milestone with a similar event at the Lake Forest secondhand shop.
The new building is part of the organization’s Cornerstone Capital Campaign, launched in September 2010. The goals of the campaign include raising $4.5 million to fund the new emergency shelter and the expansion of the Laura’s House Step Ahead transitional housing program for shelter graduates.
So far, the campaign has raised about $3.8 million, announced Wayne Pinnell, a longtime Laura's House board member, at the Thursday morning event.
Pinnell, who joined the board again in 2004 after a hiatus, said that expanding the organization's capacity has been a goal of his since the 1990s.
The final phase of fundraising will begin in January; those funds will go toward the purchase of the building that will be the home of the transitional housing program.
Also on Thursday, the secondhand store known as Portobello Road Resale Boutique renamed itself Laura's House Resale Store.
"By changing our name, we believe that the Laura's House connection to our store will be more visible to our patrons," explained Paolo Scarfo, store general manager.
For more information on the programs and services offered by Laura’s House, visit the nonprofit's recently-redesigned website at laurashouse.org.