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A place for a new start: Community support helps transform Hulstrand home into sober house for women

WILLMAR -- "If there ever was a place for a sober house, that would be it.'' Everyone will have the opportunity to see what Ann Amundson saw when she made that observation. Project Turnabout hosts an open house from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at its fir...

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Community support is making it possible for Project Turnabout to open its first sober house for women in Willmar. It has remodeled the former home of the late George Sr. and Mabel Hulstrand which is located on lot one, block one of the original plat of Willmar at 325 Seventh Street Northwest. TRIBUNE/Tom Cherveny

WILLMAR - “If there ever was a place for a sober house, that would be it.’’
Everyone will have the opportunity to see what Ann Amundson saw when she made that observation.
Project Turnabout hosts an open house from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at its first sober house for women in Willmar. Newly-remodeled and ready for its first tenants, the sober house is located in the former Hulstrand home at 325 Seventh Street Northwest in Willmar.
Its first residents are expected to move in shortly after Christmas, according to Duaine Amundson of Willmar, chair of the Project Turnabout board of directors and husband to Ann. He took her comment to heart as they drove by the stately home on Willmar’s north side one day.
That was sometime in June, and things moved quickly from there, according to Michael Schiks, executive director and CEO of Project Turnabout.
The addiction and recovery center operates a sober house for men in Willmar, known as Earl’s Place. Project Turnabout knows how important it can be for someone starting their recovery to have a safe, affordable place to begin rebuilding their life.
“Some amazing things happen,’’ said Schiks of the recovery stories made possible at Earl’s Place.
The idea of providing the same for women in the Willmar area had been discussed for some time.  
Ann Amundson’s comment set the wheels turning. Schiks is amazed at just how those wheels have been turning.
“I have been working the field of substance abuse since 1978. In all that time I have not seen the kind of spirit in the community that I have saw as this stuff came together,’’ he said. “And that’s pretty neat stuff.’’
A long list of local organizations, businesses, and individuals contributed funds and donated the labor to help with the purchase and re-purposing of this house. Volunteers have been busy in the last few days putting all the final touches together, washing windows included, to have things ready for the open house.
“There’s a holiday spirit about this,’’ Schiks said.
There’s some history here too. The house is located on lot one, block one of the original plat of Willmar. The late George Sr. and Mabel Hulstrand made it their home since 1954. George died in 2013 and Mabel in 2014. George Hulstrand Sr. was a well-known Willmar attorney and active in the state DFL party. Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy and Tom Daschle are among the guests that were welcomed into the home.
The women who will soon be making this the house their home have completed treatment for alcohol, drug or gambling addictions. They have dug enough of a hole in their personal lives and now lack the financial resources or homes to start over, said Schiks. The sober house will give them a safe home at an affordable rent to get started again. Some will be attending school to train for careers; others will be starting new jobs.
The safe home has room for seven women, and a caretaker will be onsite.
Lois Schmidt, director of development for Turnabout, is confident that guests coming to the open house will quickly realize how prescient Ann Amundson’s observation had been. Like Schiks, she too is amazed at how so many different people in the community came together to make that vision possible
“So that’s how we get a house put together. Everybody pitching in,’’ Schmidt said.

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