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County gives Harmony Visitation Center financial boost

WILLMAR -- An additional $20,000 from Kandiyohi County Family Services will help restore some of the services that were cut this fall at the Harmony Visitation Center.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners has agreed to grant the money, in addition to a previous $20,000 allocation, as part of the contract the county has with Harmony.

The center, which is operated by the Shelter House, provides supervised visits between children and non-custodial parents in situations where the child could be at risk of being harmed.

The county is obligated to provide the services, but limited staff would make it difficult for the county to supervise all the visits, said Family Services Supervisor Kathy Nelson.

"We're providing a service they must provide," said Connie Schmoll, director of the Shelter House, in an interview Wednesday. "They would have to do it themselves if we didn't."

About 50 percent of all the visitations Harmony oversees are done on behalf of Kandiyohi County Family Services, said Nelson, yet the county doesn't pay the actual cost of those visits.

The new allocation approved last week means the county is "just covering more of what our costs are for our visits," said Nelson.

In the past, grants from nonprofit organizations helped subsidize the Harmony Visitation Center.

Some of those hefty grants have disappeared, said Schmoll. Getting the extra funding from the county is "huge," she said. "For now we'll be able to meet the needs of families."

The center had recently reduced weekend and weekday visitations. The additional county funds will restore many of them, said Schmoll.

If they had another $10,000, all of the services could be restored for the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The lack of grants will continue to be a problem for Harmony in the next fiscal year, when a $50,000 deficit is expected, said Schmoll.

The Shelter House, meanwhile, is facing its own budget shortfall because of fewer grants.

The shelter, which provides safety to women and children experiencing domestic abuse, is expected to have a $60,000 shortfall in operating funds, which means a reduction in staff, programs and services at a time when more women and children than ever are coming to the door of the shelter in Willmar and the satellite offices in Olivia, Montevideo and Benson.

The 16-bed shelter is at capacity most days and motel rooms have been rented to meet needs.

Besides a loss of grants and state funding, there has also been a 25 percent drop in local giving to the shelter. Schmoll said the shelter usually receives about $100,000 a year in local contributions but that's down about $25,000 this year.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750