SARATOGA SPRINGS — For the past 40 years, Wellspring has helped Saratoga County victims of domestic violence find safety, support and healing - providing crisis and support services mostly out of a 3,000 square foot office in the Collamer Building on Broadway.
This week, the agency announced plans to construct a new 8,000 square foot facility in Malta and the launch of a fundraising campaign to assist in that relocation.
The new building will be located on Route 9, just south of Malta Avenue, and is anticipated to be completed in late 2021.
“For most of our 40-year history, Wellspring has been in the same office location, even as the agency has grown exponentially in programs offered, number of clients assisted, and staff size,” says Maggie Fronk, executive director at Wellspring.
“We’ve been working on it for about 10 years. We spent a long time looking for just the right property. It was one of the first things we did as part of a long-range strategic plan when we changed our name from Domestic Violence Rape and Crisis Services, to Wellspring, to reflect a lot of the more positive and preventative work we do,” said Fronk.
The new facility, at nearly triple the size, will allow safe spaces for counseling, rooms for programming to be used to enhance client job skills to help them obtain self-sufficiency, and a wing devoted to prevention programs.
“As wonderful our current location is, you don’t see us - and that is a big issue because the crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault happen out of sight and so when the agency is also out of sight there’s not that driving reminder that ‘oh, there’s a place I can get help,’” Fronk says. “What I think happens is people often come to us when they’re in dire crisis; I think there is something to just driving by and saying: there is a place. I don’t have to wait until there is a crisis. I can just go in and talk to somebody.”
The new location, Fronk says, is clearly visible and will sit in the central part of the county so it’s accessible to all areas of the county Wellspring serves.
Currently, the 24/7 hotline answers more than 1,500 calls annually. Last year alone the organization provided in-person counseling and case management services for 1,000 abuse survivors, and provided 70 people adults and children with safe housing in rent subsidized apartments throughout Saratoga County - a total of 14,971 nights of sleep without fear of abuse. Legal advocacy is provided on a daily basis.
Pandemic restrictions have made things more difficult for some. “Think about it: the things we did for health safety – staying home, not seeing friends – those were all necessary from a health perspective, but they created an environment rife for abuse to continue and to escalate. You’re home 24/7 with your abuser and your children. You have all kind of stressors whether it’s home schooling, loss of employment, financial worries, health worries. You’re socially isolated. All those allow abuse to escalate,” Fronk says. “We also knew people who tend to call our hotline and reach out for support or come in for counseling – if you’re home 24/7 with your abuser and your children you can’t pick up the phone and make that call. You don’t have the privacy to do it.” To that point, the agency launched a web-based chat line earlier this year so victims may “talk” discreetly to an advocate by simply typing on their computer or smartphone.
Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men. In Saratoga County, it is the second most violent crime – topped only by drunk/drugged driving - and the primary cause of family homelessness. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence incidents increased 42% between 2016 and 2018, and the number of rape/sexual assaults increased 146%.
“When things started to open up, we did see more clients coming to shelter, but you know I don’t think any of us think the world is normal yet,” Fronk says. “I don’t think we’ll see the full impact of COVID until we’ve taken care of the health crisis. Only then will we find out just how much people have endured.”
All services provided by Wellspring are free and confidential. Wellspring’s operations are funded by local, state, and federal grant funding as well as philanthropic contributions from the community
The total cost of the project is $3 million. The sources of funding include Wellspring’s building reserves, a loan from The Adirondack Trust Company, and a fundraising campaign with a goal of $1.8 million. More than half of the fundraising goal has been reached, leaving $665,000 yet to be raised. To support Wellspring’s mission, visit the Wellspring website www.wellspringcares.org/make-a-change/donate or call 518-583-0280.