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The Lord laid the vision to expand Hope Harbor into other communities on the heart of the Board of Directors at an interesting time. We had just undergone some big changes in the ministry, with a new Executive Director and transition into becoming our own private, individual organization. Really, Lord? Another home?
Prayerful consideration brought up southeastern Minnesota as an ideal location. There, teens from Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin could be served. Hmmm…
Our Executive Director, Cindy McKittrick, had recently attended a service at a church in Winona while visiting family enrolled at the university. She wondered if the Lead Pastor would have any input on whether the Winona area could use services like Hope Harbor, so she sent him a quick email to see what he thought.
The response from Pastor Brandon Zieske of Pleasant Valley Church in February of 2016 was three letters with two punctuation: “YES!!”
Cindy and Pastor Brandon met shortly thereafter, and his question was, “What do we need to make this happen?” When Cindy replied that we need a house, she was met with, “We have one right here.” And Hope Harbor’s expansion into Winona officially began.
The expansion team, led by Hope Harbor Founder, former Executive Director, and now Expansion Coordinator Claudia Stenson, got efforts underway. Every step was carefully planned and directed through prayer. We prayed for meetings with individuals within the Winona community who may be interested in getting involved in the expansion, and the Lord set up meetings. We prayed about how to share the ministry’s story, program and need, and the Lord guided us into developing a Case Statement. As more people got involved, we prayed for someone to coordinate in Winona, and the Lord sent two women, Dorothy Ruppert and Joyce Rocco to volunteer their time as interim co-site directors.
An Advisory Board was formed and held their first meeting official meeting on October 25, 2016. Stephanie Orr agreed to chair the events committee and Hope Harbor held our first fundraising event in Winona on November 17, 2016. Steve and Mary Baumgart answered the call to coordinate with Stephanie and spearhead fundraising efforts. Since the team has come together, nearly $150,000 has been raised through personal contacts, events, raffles, and grants.
Hope Harbor recently began renting and renovating a house owned by Pleasant Valley Church. Tammy Lozenski has led team that are carefully and painstakingly installing egress windows, converting the garage into office space, remodeling the lower level, adding new carpet, new window treatments, furnishings, painting, and more. The remodel team is truly making this house a home where teens can heal.
We are in the final stages of licensing, home preparation, and initial fundraising. In August of 2017 we hired on Mary Meyer as Site Director and Kate Forkner as Teacher. Lael Lemire began working as House Staff in Marshall in the fall of 2016 and recently relocated back to Winona to head up House Staff duties and help train staff in Winona. We continue to pray for the Lord to send more House Staff and a Counselor. With all this excitement, we plan to have our home in Winona operation in September of 2017.
The Lord is going to do an awesome work in Winona. He already is. Fruit is evident and more is coming. We are fielding calls for placement already, and we will soon welcome residents into this home of hope and healing in Winona.
To say that are excited about this expansion into Winona is an understatement. We are thankful to the people listed above, and the countless more who we haven’t named, that have been instrumental in our start up. We are thankful for the businesses, organization, and churches that have supported this effort so far. While Pleasant Valley Church has been very active in the groundwork, Hope Harbor is an interdenominational organization that is not affiliated with any specific denomination or church. We are partnering with many local churches and groups to get this home operational, and welcome any who have a heart to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to help teens overcome past hurts and become new creations in Christ Jesus. Thank you for joining us on this journey!