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'Everybody wins' as Second Chances plans move

It’s empty now, but plans are to move merchandise into Second Chances’ newly remodeled store in August. Pictured are Turningpoint’s Sexual Assault Services Coordinator Katie Ryan (left) and Executive Director Kim Wojcik. (River Falls Journal photo by Judy Wiff)1 / 4
Josh Larson of All Star Elevator prepares the new elevator for inspection. (River Falls Journal photo by Judy Wiff)2 / 4
Donors may buy and inscribe tiles that will be hung on a wall in the new store. Pictured are Second Chances store manager Kelly Zillmer and her daughter Meghan, who volunteers at the store. (River Falls Journal photo by Judy Wiff)3 / 4
Turningpoint Executive Director Kim Wojcik and Katie Ryan, sexual assault services coordinator, look over plans for administrative offices on the third floor of the remodeled store. (River Falls Journal photo by Judy Wiff)4 / 4

Work that began a year ago is nearing completion as Second Chances, the secondhand store that helps fund Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence, prepares to move into a larger building in August.

Last August the agency bought the building at 117 N. Main St., right next door to the store it now rents in downtown River Falls.

When finished, the project will offer more space to display merchandise, will eventually allow more rooms for clients at Turningpoint's shelter, restores an historical building, revitalizes a part of the downtown and shows the commitment of the community to a worthwhile service, said Turningpoint Executive Director Kim Wojcik.

"Everybody wins," she said.

Since last fall volunteers and workers from Pilgrim Construction of Chippewa Falls have gutted the main floor of the old building, torn out old interior walls, added a loading dock, removed and replaced old wiring, widened an elevator shaft, installed a new elevator and renovated an entrance from the back alley.

Turningpoint and Second Chances will hold a fundraiser open house at the new store 2-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 30.

"That is not the moved-in open house. That's the come-and-see-what-we're-doing open house," said Wojcik. "We really want everyone to come and check it out."

The actual moving of merchandise, much of which can be done through a doorway between the two stores, will be completed in August. The lease on the current store site expires Aug. 31.

The new store offers more space and has nooks set aside for specific merchandise, such as books and children's things.

The second-level mezzanines -- one for men's clothing and one for women's clothing -- are complete with dressing rooms.

There's an office for the store manager, bathrooms and a break room and workroom for volunteers, plus lots of storage space for seasonal merchandise as well as materials needed for Turningpoint programs.

Once the agency can raise enough money to finish work on that level, the third floor of the multi-level building will hold Turningpoint's administrative offices, now situated in the agency's shelter in a residential neighborhood.

"We're hoping it's before the holidays," said Wojcik, noting that last holiday season the shelter turned away 14 people because there wasn't room for them.

Turningpoint administrators and the store's managers started looking for a larger space last year because they had reached the point where they'd have to start turning down donations, said Wojcik.

"Commercial property was so low (priced) during the time we started to look," she said, noting the search was timed right and worked out well.

First National Community Bank of New Richmond sold the building to the agency at the reduced price of $145,000, and First National Bank of River Falls gave them a good deal on a mortgage, said Wojcik.

Mortgage payments will be half the current rental costs, and the bank has allowed them to make interest-only payments during the year it has taken to remodel, she said.

The move wouldn't have happened if the New Richmond bank hadn't dropped the price or if the River Falls bank hadn't kept interest costs low, said Wojcik.

Turningpoint hired Craig Pilgrim for the project because he would allow volunteers to work on the project and volunteered some of his own time, said Wojcik.

"We did all of the demolition," she said. "We didn't know if we could actually do it."

Staff, store workers, members of the agency's board of directors and other volunteers all pitched in for several days last fall to knock out old walls and clear out the building.

Over one weekend backhoe and skid steer operators excavated and removed limestone and shale from a four-foot pit at the bottom of the elevator shaft.

Wojcik estimated that over 100 volunteers helped in one way or another, often working in shifts. At one particular time, 60 volunteers were hard at work, she said.

The bulk of demolition was done last October, and remodeling started before Thanksgiving.

"The big thing was the shaft," said Wojcik. The new elevator goes from ground level in the back of the building to the top and will be used for moving heavier items up and down, for customers who have accessibility limitations and for privacy for clients who want to meet with agency staff.

Apart from buying the building, Turningpoint needed to raise $85,000 for demolition, remodeling, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work plus fire-safety updates at the shelter. Wojcik said the agency has raised close to $45,000 and still needs another $40,000. She figures they've also received donated labor and materials worth $40,000.

When the store opens, the administrative offices on the third floor won't be completed. That work will be delayed until funding is assured, said Wojcik.

"It will be the day we have the $40,000," she said.

At that point the second-floor area of the shelter that now holds the offices will be remodeled for bedrooms for the agency's clients.

Then, said Wojcik, the shelter will be what it was intended to be -- confidential, stable and quiet.

"Shelter clients will get their needs met at the shelter," she said. "Really a lot of this is about improving the shelter services."

Expanding the store and moving offices downtown also serves other purposes such as making the agency move visible and facilitating access for past or present victims who don't need to or would rather not go to a domestic abuse shelter, said Wojcik.

"It's making (abuse services) more mainstream, not a hidden thing," said Katie Ryan, Turningpoint's sexual assault services coordinator.

"It's like taking the shame out of (seeking help)," agreed Wojcik. "The likelihood of you coming here to me is so much greater."

Besides, she said, as agencies face government funding cuts, Turningpoint depends more and more on income from the store.

"The more money we can earn, the better we can do the client-service part," said Wojcik.

In the meantime, the agency is still seeking donations to complete this project. It is selling tiles for $25, $250 or $500 to hang on the new store's wall.

Donors can design their own tiles, or designers are available to help, including perhaps a company's logo, a photograph or an inscription on the tile.

"The tiles look phenomenal," said Wojcik. "They really show a sense of solidarity with victims who come into the store."

For those who can make larger donations, Second Chances is offering the opportunity to name individual rooms, nooks or crannies in the building.

The agency could use help from a mason to reopen sealed windows and is still looking for a tin smith to repair an upstairs pounded tin ceiling that will have to be removed if it's not repaired, said Wojcik.

Volunteers are also needed to pick up donations, help clean and for other tasks. Persons wanting to help may call 715-426-5463.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

(715) 426-1049