Laurel Shelter officially dissolves

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 13, 2019 - 01:42 PM

The Laurel Shelter, which for many years provided a safe haven to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault on the Middle Peninsula, has finally closed its doors.

The house where those victims lived was recently sold, and the thrift store that provided support for the shelter and employment for its residents has closed.

Robert Earl Wilbanks Jr., treasurer of the Laurel Shelter’s board of directors, said that the board had begun to talk about closing down operations as long ago as 2015. When he joined the board two years ago, the idea was to turn around the Laurel Shelter Thrift Store, which was losing money. 

Although he successfully faced that challenge, he said, when he looked at how the organization as a whole was providing services, he felt that the board, which only had three members, wasn’t able to do the job it needed to do. He reached out to other non-profits to determine the ways in which they’re structured and do business, and came to the conclusion that the Laurel Shelter “wasn’t really as efficient” as charities such as the Avalon Center, which provided the same services to residents of the Peninsula.

Wilbanks said best practices weren’t being used, there had been missed opportunities to secure grants, and funding wasn’t adequately being leveraged.

“We felt that Avalon would do a better job,” he said.

So, in 2017, the board reached out to Avalon, which decided it could find the funding to provide services to the Middle Peninsula.

Avalon began offering its services locally in August 2017. It has a presence in downtown Mathews and is searching for board members to explore the possibility of building a shelter on the Middle Peninsula.

According to public records, the Laurel Shelter house was sold back to the original owners, Robert and June Klink of Hartfield, for $171,805. Wilbanks said they had first right of refusal on the sale of the property.

Wilbanks said that the Laurel Shelter still has some outstanding debt, but once all the bills are paid, the remaining funds will be divided between Avalon and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, to be used for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in the five counties the Laurel Shelter once served.