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Terebinth Refuge – Local Winner of Touchstone Energy Community Award

After being selected from 195 Operation Round Up applications in 2019, Terebinth Refuge was among six finalists to be nominated for the 2020 Stearns Electric Touchstone Energy Community Award.

Terebinth Refuge opened in April 2018 as the first of its kind in Central Minnesota, offering a safe home that brings hope, healing services and freedom to sexually exploited and trafficked women throughout Minnesota who are 18 years and older. “Although there are shelters for sexually exploited and trafficked women throughout the state, most of them work with individuals who are 21 and younger,” founder and executive director CeCe Terlouw said. “There were very few shelters offering assistance to adults and older women, and no shelters in St. Cloud, which is why I chose the St. Cloud metro area as the location of Terebinth Refuge.”

Terebinth Refuge opened its operation with two shelter beds in April 2018. By the end of 2018, the organization had added eight additional beds. “To date, we have provided emergency shelter services to 53 women and four small children,” Lana Kozak, development director, explained. “We have taken over 350 calls from those in need since the refuge opened.”

“During their stay, we ask women to participate in various types of programming and education,” Terlouw explained. “It’s our goal that the women will go from the emergency shelter to our transitional housing program, which sets them up to save money, secure a stable job and find their own living arrangements. The entire program length is based on each individual woman, but usually takes between 18 months and two years.”

A HEALING FOCUS

The organization focuses on holistic health: body, mind, soul and spirit.

“To assist with body health, a registered nurse is on-site at the shelter twice a week to provide care and education to the women,” Terlouw said. “As many of the women have been exploited since a very young age, our nurse is able to both provide physical care for the women and educate them on topics such as proper hygiene and healthy nutrition.”

“We also have exercise equipment at the home for the women to use and in addition, the head trainer at Orange Theory Fitness comes to the shelter to exercise with the women once a week,” Kozak added.

Terebinth Refuge offers strong programming in mental and chemical health. The shelter has a partnership with Catholic Charities, which provides crisis counseling and therapy to women until they are ready to commit to their own individual therapist.

“When it comes to fulfilling the soul, we focus on employment and education,” Terlouw explained. “Our volunteers come and teach the women many different life skills, such as budgeting, gardening, cooking, sewing – you name it. We also provide dog therapy and sponsor trips to Angel Reins Stable to provide equine therapy.”

“As for spirit, Terebinth Refuge is a Christian-based organization, that aims to provide an atmosphere that accepts women exactly where they are,” Terlouw continued. “We arrange opportunities to heal spiritually, but at the same time we do not force individuals to participate.”

STORIES OF SUCCESS

Terebinth Refuge has two survivor advocates that have each played a crucial role in helping other women in the shelter.

“One of our survivor advocates has developed an employment readiness program for the shelter,” Terlouw said. “Another program graduate earned her high school diploma and her certified nursing assistant license and now works a full time job in the area.”

“So far, 25 women have participated in the employment readiness program, nine women have felt safe enough to work with law enforcement to report crimes against them, and 11 residents have attended drug treatment,” Kozak said.

“In everything we do, we celebrate the little steps each woman achieves,” she said. “Those little steps make all of the difference.”

COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

“This community … we are blown away!” Kozak said. “This community is truly unbelievable!”

“We have a wonderful board of directors and over 40 volunteers whose work continues to help these women succeed,” Terlouw said.

“When we first started preparing the home to serve as our shelter, we didn’t even know who to thank because people just kept showing up and helping in any way possible,” Kozak added. “From filling the generator gas tank so we could have electricity, to hooking up the plumbing and electrical in the home, so many people helped this shelter become a reality.”

The support continued this Christmas season when several community organizations and members stepped up to provide gifts for the women. “We heard from a few of the women that this ‘was the best Christmas ever,’” Kozak concluded.

TOUCHSTONE ENERGY COMMUNITY AWARD

Every year, the Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award recognizes businesses, non-profit organizations and community groups that have shown a strong commitment to their communities. Stearns Electric Association, a local Touchstone Energy Cooperative, uses its Operation Round Up® (ORU) program to select a local organization as our Touchstone Energy Community Award Winner. This year’s recipient is Terebinth Refuge.

“In Central Minnesota, we are grateful for so many groups that are willing to donate time and effort to better our community,” Whitney Ditlevson, ORU coordinator, said. “We are pleased that as a Minnesota Touchstone Energy Cooperative, we have this opportunity to recognize those individuals and organizations like Terebinth Refuge that impact our community in a positive way.”

As part of the award, Terebinth Refuge earns a $500 prize and plaque and is automatically entered into the statewide competition along with other cooperative winners. The statewide winner is selected at the Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s annual meeting in St. Paul every March. The statewide winner receives an additional $1,000.

“We are extremely grateful for this recognition and look forward to using these additional funds to continue providing a safe space for women in need,” Terlouw concluded.

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