Our History

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1979: A group of concerned individuals took the initiative to address the issue of domestic violence by writing a grant for a crisis line in Door County. This was operated by volunteers and part time staff in the community center. The “HELPline” was formed as a crisis intervention and information phone service but was only answered when someone was available.The agency’s emphasis in the first year was securing sufficient volunteers to expand the ability to answer the HELPline on a regular basis.

1980: After a year of operating the HELPline, HELP received a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services to provide more extensive services for victims of domestic violence.

1981:  With the grant from Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services, HELP was able to move into its own office in the Community Center and support two staff positions.

1982:  HELP began a public awareness campaign to alert the community that it was not exempt from domestic violence. HELP worked to raise awareness that victims did not have to live in fear. “Safe Homes” were established in the community for women and children in need of escaping violent situations. Advocacy and counseling services were also established. Staff enlisted the latest technology and began to carry pagers in order to respond to any D.V. crisis around the clock.

1983:  The HELPline expanded and purchased a call diverter that made it possible for trained volunteer operators to provide 24-hour crisis phone service in their homes after office hours. HELP hired its first Executive Director and DV Coordinator.

1984:  HELP became involved in developing awareness and providing services for other victim groups.

1985:  HELP was approached by the United Methodist Church in Algoma to seek foster homes for runaway youth. The church had received a grant to provide services to youth in Door & Kewaunee Counties.

1986:  HELP began providing 24-hour crisis intervention, safe homes and counseling for runaway youth in Door and Kewaunee counties. HELP became licensed as a Child Placement Agency to develop and license foster homes for runaways. The HELP office was moved to a new community center now run by the YMCA. A sexual assault grant was received to provide parenting education to adult survivors of sexual abuse. In an effort to further meet the needs of battered women and their children following a crisis situation, HELP proposed the establishment of a Transitional Living Program.

1987:  HELP of Door County, Inc. was instrumental in the formation of the Door County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The primary focus of this initiative was to offer an Educational Program for male batterers called “Alternatives to Violence” (ATV).  HELP played a key role in the development, administration and implementation of this new innovative program.

1988:  The Transitional Living House began operation in 1988 for battered women and their children leaving violent relationships. The Transitional Living House was converted into two apartments. The Volunteer in service to America (VISTA) program allowed HELP to hire a person who would be federally funded. HELP was able to hire three VISTA workers to work through the Wisconsin Association of Runaway Services program.

1990:  HELP implemented a Violence Free Relationships for Teens curriculum (VFRT). The VFRT project was successfully incorporated in all five Door County high schools. With the success of the curriculum, HELP’s role evolved into monitoring the program and providing annual peer leader training. HELPline saw an improvement by retiring the call diverter and purchasing an in house call forward system. This allowed for greater stability and security to the staff and the crisis line by allowing remote access call forwarding.

1992:  HELP’s first Legal grant was sought and received, and HELP hired its first legal advocate. A generous supporter of HELP financially supported the hiring of HELP’s first children’s coordinator. Previously the children’s program had been under volunteer leadership.

1993:  On its’ 15 year anniversary, HELP staff, clients and children made a quilt which was displayed throughout Door County, and at the National Domestic Violence Convention in St. Paul, MN. The HELPline was now averaging over 5,000 calls annually.

1994:  A Video was developed titled “Finding HELP’ and was run as a public service announcement on local media outlets. HELP’s Board of Directors decided to undertake a remodeling project due to staff overcrowding and security issues among concerns that the Community Center in which HELP was located was in jeopardy of closing.

1995:  With the anticipated closing of the Community Center, a site committee was formed to address the issue of finding a new home for HELP.

1996:  The site search for HELP’s new location was the main focus during this year.

1997:  HELP was able to purchase a location for its offices in March located on the corner of 4th and Pennsylvania in Sturgeon Bay. The property needed a great deal of work with bathrooms, heating system, lighting fixtures and an incredible amount of painting. As word spread of HELP’s manpower needs, dozens of community volunteers stepped forward to not only donate financially but also gave generously of their time and talents to renovate and update the building. This was a critical time for HELP as it transformed and moved into a new home. The decision was also made to replace volunteer operators with professionally trained and paid staff which began answering the HELPline in December, 1997 24 hours a day/365 days a year.

1998:  The Board of Directors defined mission of HELP of Door County, Inc. as:

“HELP of Door County, Inc. is committed to improving the well-being and dignity of individuals in families and intimate relationships. Our goal is to support and enhance people’s strengths and reduce the incidence of violence and conflict within relationships. We provide resources, programs, and referrals to support families and individuals and we offer services to those affected by interpersonal violence.” 

1998:  HELP initiated the Car Crusade program, where cars could be donated to HELP and given out to clients in need of transportation. HELP also began the pursuit of a new project. Expanding upon the success of mediation with runaways and their families, the Family Solutions program was introduced. It was a mediation based program which was completely voluntary and available to families in crisis.

1999:  Hispanic Outreach services begun.

2000:  HELP’s Board of Director’s approved a revised mission statement:

“Breaking the cycles of domestic violence and abuse for victims, families and communities.”

HELP begins The Visitation and Exchange Program and added older adult services. HELP rapidly was outgrowing the walls of the house on Pennsylvania Street and added the Youth Annex across the street. Through the assistance of the United Way of Door County, HELP expanded into two part-time satellite offices with a Northern Door office in Sister Bay, and a Southern Door office in Maplewood.

2001:  New programs and collaborations were expanded including Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) prevention with the Door County Tobacco Free Coalition and the Aaron J. Wake Foundation and new youth initiatives were begun with the founding of the Jim Larsen Boys and Girls Club of Door County. Additionally, the ATV and Child Visitation and Exchange programs were seeing rapid expansion.

2002:  The “Out of the Shadows” project began in the summer of 2002 and was scheduled for formal presentation through August 2003. Strengthened and increased services at both satellite offices in Maplewood and Sister Bay were begun and HELP was able to spin off the Jim Larsen Boys and Girls Club into its’ own entity. HELP opened Door County’s first Hispanic Center.

2003: During this year of significant budget cuts. HELP’s AODA program was taken over by area  school systems. The Youth program was spun off into the Boy’s and Girls club by that following spring and the “Out of the Shadows” project was showcased in Madison. 

2004:  Court Watch is organized and gathers and records data about domestic violence in Door County. Volunteers open their homes as gathering places for others to learn about HELP’s work, and educate people on Domestic Violence. The Sister Bay Office was relocated.

2005:  HELP expanded core services to the northern part of Door County. This included a new Visitation and Exchange Program, expanded office hours and new outreach to teens through the Healthy Relationships program. HELP expanded its emphasis on prevention with Older Adult and Healthy Relationships presentations for teens and the elder community. Family Centers of Door County becomes independent from HELP.

2006:  The Board of Directors worked on a new Vision Statement for HELP, and a new Logo:

“We desire a world….Free from violence that recognizes the uniqueness and capabilities of all persons where all people have access to resources….Where all people respect each other and appreciate differences.”

They also created a new (and current) Mission Statement:

“Eliminating domestic abuse through prevention and intervention services and advocating for social change.”

2007: HELP’s moves into its current location at 219 Green Bay Rd, Sturgeon Bay. The V&E program was now offered in the Green Bay Road location with a special room with camera monitors. There is also a Northern Door V&E site in Sister Bay.

2008:  HELP suffered a tremendous loss with the unexpected death of our beloved Anne Kok who served as HELP’s Executive Director from 1985 to 1989. Anne developed a number of the programs still in place at HELP today. Anne served on our Board of Directors until 2006 and continued on HELP’s program committee until the time of her death. HELP initiated the Anne Kok Social Justice Award to Honor Anne’s legacy. Recipients of the award are people who embody Anne’s ideals of Social Justice and Change and are also Champions for Domestic Violence Advocacy.

HELP developed a new strategic plan and closed the Maplewood storage shed which ahd been used to accept and distribute large items of furniture for clients.

2009: Annual report and Web page is redesigned. HELP moved forward with going paperless, both the newsletter and the annual report were now available via email and website.

2010: The Helpline discontinued as a community wide information and referral and community crisis hotline, and turned its focus to Domestic Violence crisis calls only with the implementation of a national 211 system which replaced the need for a community information line.

2011:  HELP underwent an expansion of V&E program into Brown County who did not have such a program.

2012:  With a grant from the Safe Havens Program, HELP hosted the first “Walk In Her Shoes” annual event.

2015:  Due to a roof construction issue and mold, HELP underwent major remodeling forcing the staff to work out of Bay View Lutheran Church for several months.

2016:  Help of Door County embraced a new identity that focuses on teamwork, community collaboration and making our message well known throughout communities in Door County.