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At 40th anniversary, a look back at founding of Greeley’s trailblazing A Woman’s Place shelter

October 4, 2018 


Terry Frei 


 This picture ran in the July 9, 1980, Greeley Tribune. The caption read: “[John Anderson] directs driver Jim Brown through a tight spot on 7th Avenue after workmen spent nearly two hours lowering telephone and power cable so the huge Charles A. Grayum building could pass. . .  The building will be used as a home for battered women.  (Tribune photo by Paul Moloney.)”

In 1977, University of Northern Colorado assistant dean of students Jean Schober — soon to become dean of students and Jean Schober Morrell — and several other Weld County women and men took stock of the disquieting, troubling situation around them.

What they heard involved more whispers than shouts, if it even was that much.

Often, bruises showed amid silence or even denial. In that time, there still were things you just didn’t talk about much or acknowledge or report. Domestic violence was among them.

“People considered it kind of to be behind closed doors, just a private family matter,” Morrell recalled this week. “So there weren’t very many domestic violence shelters in the country. In fact, the closest one to Weld County was in Lakewood.



“So a group of us wondered what was available to victims of domestic violence in Weld County. We were members of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women and we started a battered women’s task force that would look into this issue, what was needed.”

With Morrell as chairwoman, the task force found one private home in the area was known to be a temporary refuge for victims of violence and that the Salvation Army sometimes placed battered women — that term was once both acceptable and often sadly accurate —  in Motel 6 for a couple days. That was about it.

Obtaining a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act federal grant, the group hired two part-time staffers and set out to document the extent of the problem in the area. The conclusion was that there were three reported domestic violence incidents per day, with italics or asterisks appropriate, and that there was a definite need for a shelter.

The task force incorporated as “A Woman’s Place” in 1978.

*  *  *

We now take a time out from the narrative to jump ahead to Oct. 13. Yes, 2018. Forty years later.

On that night at the DoubleTree Hotel at Lincoln Park, a Gala Anniversary Dinner and fundraiser will commemorate both the 40th anniversary of A Woman’s Place and the 25th anniversary of the founding of its fundraising arm, Friends of a Woman’s Place. Many organizations have signed on as sponsors, with $10,000 donations from NCMC Inc.; Noble Energy; and Richmark leading the way. Individual tickets still are available, at $150 apiece. Information is available at http://www.awpdv.org

Because of the milestone years involved, this gala for one year will replace the annual Celebrating Women Gala, put on by the Friends of A Woman’s Place to honor five or six accomplished women in the community and serve as the major fundraiser for the shelter.

This Gala Anniversary Dinner will salute what A Woman’s Place has been, what it has become, and — to an extent, unfortunately — what it will be. Past board members for both the shelter and Friends of A Woman’s Place, plus honorees from past Celebrating Women Galas will be introduced and saluted. Morrell noted it’s all part of A Woman’s Place’s appreciation of the support it has received from the Greeley area for four decades.

And two women who were victims of domestic violence and received help from A Woman’s Place will tell their stories.

“That really puts a face on what we do at A Woman’s Place,” Morrell said.

It is a saga of success, a heartening tale of Weld County responding, and doing so ahead of the curve.

*  *  *


Kyle Monfort Futo, left, representing the Monfort Charitable Trust, which donated $15,000, and Jean Schober Morrell, at right, after the walls of A Woman’s Place building were stripped down to the studs in an effort to drive away bats before the shelter opened. Tom Cowan, kneeling, and John Leone, standing, were Greeley Excavation partners who contributed the construction of a basement. (Tribune file photo)

After A Woman’s Place was incorporated, there were many steps still necessary before a shelter opened. Morrell and the other founders put together a board of many prominent area men and women, seeking to involve as many professional fields as possible. One temporary setback was the United Way policy of the time, which dictated an entity had to have been providing services for two years before it could be funded.

“We started a crisis line for victims of domestic violence so we could tell them what was available in the area, and we put out a resources pamphlet, too,” Morrell said. “Then, because I was president of the board, I started making presentations. I presented before city council, and the city was great.”

The city funding came from an Urban Renewal Community Development Block Grant fund. The city’s Urban Renewal Authority purchased a large empty home that was available because the senior activities center was being constructed on that block, and also a separate parcel of land.

In a complicated move, the home was transported to land also purchased by the Urban Renewal Authority and A Woman’s Place had acquired. The problems with the building were that it was a haven for wasps and also that bats were drawn to it because of their own accumulated waste. Drastic situations call for drastic measures, and cleaning up the house and chasing away the bats required the walls essentially be torn out until only the framing studs remained. The Anderson Construction Co., now Ancon II Construction, was hired to do the renovations. John Leone and Tom Cowan of Greeley Excavation contributed $3,000 worth of material and work to add a basement.

After considerable additional fundraising and renovation, often with donated materials and volunteer labor, A Woman’s Place opened Jan. 18, 1981. The house had four bedrooms. By then, organizers had been providing aid — short of a shelter — for more than two years, so United Way of Weld County soon was a financial backer, and has been since.

By 2002, the shelter was having to turn away potential temporary residents, in some cases sending them to facilities outside the area. That began to sound like a flashback to the reality in the area before A Woman’s Place’s founding, and grants from the Monfort Family Foundation and from the city and Urban Renewal Authority were crucial in the expansion of the shelter from four to eight bedrooms and the construction of other improvements in 2003.

Also, a board member at the time, Enita Kearns-Hout, noted 64 women attending a “Mad Hatter” Tea pledged $333 for three years to raise nearly $64,000 for the expansion.

In 2018 at A Woman’s Place, there are 29 beds, plus cribs. The general policy is to limit stays to a month, though a second month is allowed in circumstances that warrant it.


To contribute to A Woman’s Place:

Friends of A Woman’s Place
PO Box 337751
Greeley, CO  80633

Darling, interim director of  A Woman’s Place, noted that the shelter operated at only half capacity for three months in 2017 because of additional renovations, which were funded by the Greeley Urban Renewal Authority and donations. Those in the overflow were returned to other shelters along the Front Range. She said that ultimately in that year, A Woman’s Place representatives answered 625 crisis calls and served 438 women, including 299 of whom stayed at least one night under the shelter’s roof. She said that in addition to shelter, those contacting A Woman’s Place can be helped out with referrals to legal experts, counseling and child and family advocacy, and more.

“Some victims come in with only the clothes on their backs and are starting a whole new life from scratch,” Darling said.

A new “permanent” director, Diane Heldt, begins work in late October.

This all takes money, of course.

A lot of it.

Friends of A Woman’s Place has raised about $1 million over the previous 24 years. The goal for the Gala Anniversary Dinner is to at least match recent year total of $95,000 and perhaps reach $100,000.

It all started with a group of NOW members wondering.