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Bellingham domestic violence center expands

Office manager Meghan Hoglund in expanded lobby at the remodeled Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services offices in the Douglas Building in downtown Bellingham on Thursday, July 16, 2015.
Office manager Meghan Hoglund in expanded lobby at the remodeled Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services offices in the Douglas Building in downtown Bellingham on Thursday, July 16, 2015. The Bellingham Herald

More than a year after fundraising began, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services center has completed the second of three phases of renovation.

DVSAS, located at 1407 Commercial St., will be hosting an open house from 4:30-7 p.m. Monday, July 20, to celebrate expansions of its lobby and client meeting rooms, the addition of a child play space and counseling room, and general improvements to the 106-year-old building.

“Our lobby used to hold about two people,” Development Director Jen Sandoval said. “Just the comfort and accessibility has increased so much.”

The renovations come as part of the DVSAS Renewed Hope capital campaign, which has been raising money for the organization since June 2014. Since then, more than $350,000 has come through grants and donations, Sandoval said.

The agency offers a variety of services including advocacy counseling, support groups, legal assistance and community training.

Improvements to the building have been split into three phases. The first included structural and roof repairs for the building and was completed last year. The third phase will include improvements to DVSAS’s seperate residential location, where 21 beds provide emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Sandoval hopes Monday’s open house will be an opportunity to not only show people the new improvements but also to spread the word of DVSAS in general.

“You don’t think you’re going to need our services until you do, so we just want people to know we’re here if they ever need us,” Sandoval said.

DVSAS has been operating out of its current location since 1989. Back then, the organization was almost exclusively a call center, Sandoval said. As more clients began going to the center in person, more space was needed to accommodate their needs.

The organization’s housing is almost always full and comes with an average stay of about 60 days. While the majority of clients are women, men who come to the center will be offered housing in a hotel.

The organization also offers youth and prevention services and safe relationship education. Sandoval said regardless of age or gender, DVSAS works to empower its clients to work through their challenges. Over its years in the city, thousands of people affected by domestic violence or sexual assault have sought guidance and counseling from the center.

“Whether it’s been 20 minutes or 20 years, we support survivors of domestic violence and assault,” she said.

An additional $100,000 is needed to complete the final stage of renovations. Donations from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars will be highlighted by plaques and other forms of recognition to be displayed at DVSAS.

Pledges can be made on the agency website dvsas.org.

The agency’s 24-hour help line can be reached at 360-715-1563 or 877-715-1563.

Libby Keller can be reached at 360-715-2242 or libby.keller@belllinghamherald.com.

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