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Shelter’s renovations restore air of healing

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Women Helping Women advocate Nani Fay Paglinawan, above, conducted a Hawaiian blessing during an event Tuesday celebrating the renovation of the nonprofit’s shelter in Wailuku, Maui.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Renee Ward, above, a volunteer with West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force, finished hanging photos showing the before and after of a remodeled bedroom in the shelter.
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WAILUKU, Maui » Stacey Moniz already picked her bed out Tuesday evening at Women Helping Women Maui’s newly renovated women’s shelter.

"The room with the nice windows is mine," joked the organization’s executive director.

After years of disrepair, the shelter has been updated with a brand new kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, flooring and a host of other upgrades that have transformed the formerly ailing shelter. About 100 people were invited to witness the renovated facility Tuesday. The event served as a "thank you" to the many volunteers and organizations that lent a hand in the project.

"It takes your breath away," Moniz told the Maui News. "We never could have done this, but because of the many people that really care about us in this community, that’s how this came together. There’s so many people in this community that want to make our shelter beautiful.

"It’s stunning," she said. "It looks like a model home in Wailea."

The effort to repair the over-100-year-old structure began July 2, when a task force of volunteers was formed: Deeana Davis, Laks Abraham, Renee Ward, Lena Staton and Sandra Florence. Davis, who served as chairwoman, said the shelter received generous donations of furniture and other items, and initially planned to place them inside and "call it a day."

"But we came in and realized we can’t just put a Band-Aid on it," she said. "We knew we got to do this. It has to happen. We need to have the women and children and staff of the shelter feel valued and heal. When you walked in before, it was so many years and years of wear and tear, so we gutted the entire shelter with new flooring, painting, lighting.

"You name it, we did it."

The seven-bedroom, two-story house had four of its five bathrooms completely renovated with new tile floors, mirrors and granite countertops. Bedrooms were bright and welcoming with new mattresses, bedsheets, lamps, ceiling fans and dressers.

More than 4,000 square feet of new flooring was installed and three offices were cleaned and updated: a counseling room, house manager office and 24-hour Crisis Hotline intake office. A children’s play room also was redone and will now remain open at all times, unlike previous years.

The shelter has about 28 beds, and all of them are typically taken throughout the year. The remodel took only about six weeks to complete and was the first major renovation to the shelter since 1995.

"Domestic violence doesn’t take a break, unfortunately, and this house was in desperate, desperate need of repair," Florence said. "It was a place of safety, but it was disheartening."

Florence, who served as the facilitator of the project, said well over 100 volunteers and 50 businesses contributed to the project that took about a year to plan. Passing out lei and giving hugs, she could not say enough about the hard work and generosity of each attendee she came across at Tuesday’s event.

"We moved out six weeks ago, and today, we put the last picture on the wall," she said.

Key contributions came from Susan Bendon of the Bendon Family Foundation, which donated $50,000. Maui Jim donated another $20,000 to help pay for the remodeling of the kitchen.

Palani Alexander headed the construction of the project, and organizations such as Maui United Way and the West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force played crucial roles in helping to transform the shelter, Florence said.

As visitors perused the halls of the house, pictures of the old rooms were displayed on dressers. Many of the rooms had mattresses with no covers, discolored walls, stained sheets and termite-damaged furniture.

"There really wasn’t anything within touch that we didn’t try to fix in the house," Florence said. She said former residents, including a young girl, who had grown up in the shelter as children were emotional to see its new look.

"She broke into tears when she saw it today," she said.

Ward said the remodel task force wanted the shelter to be a "calm, nurturing and healing environment." Workers tried to bring the house back to its old plantation-style feel with white trim, wood floors and white wooden blinds.

"We wanted continuity and flow, and a shelter that felt cared for and valued, because we wanted them to feel cared for and valued," she said.

Around 300 women and children sought refuge in the Women Helping Women shelter in 2013. Guests stay anywhere from a day to several months, making meals for themselves and sharing their experiences with others.

Deputy Director Monique Yamashita said the shelter has a no-turn-away policy, and traffic has been very high. She said the shelter goes through appliances regularly and replaces its stove every two or three years.

Moniz said current occupants stayed in two offsite shelters during the renovations. Future work on the shelter will be done on the exterior and structure, she added.

Among the attendees Tuesday was Sen. Roz Baker (D, West Maui-South Maui).

A member of the West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force, she marveled at the newly renovated shelter that looked more like a hotel rather than temporary housing.

"It’s amazing," she said. "I think it’s going to give the folks who come here a sense of peace and calm and safety. Hopefully, the beautiful surroundings will give them a feeling of being loved and valued and cared for. Give them a way to heal their lives and make a new start for themselves."

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