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CVTC project boosts local nonprofit shelter

CVTC students Carrie Devney, left and Janel Frank pose at the 2nd Chances store in downtown River Falls where they spent volunteer hours helping set up the Christmas season displays. <i>Submitted photos</i>1 / 2
CVTC students, from left, Jesse Melby, and Taylor Petricka look at the ladder their group constructed outside the 2nd Chances store. The ladder represents progress toward Turningpoint's fundraising goal, and also serves as a place for promotional materials.2 / 2

Before beginning a project management class, Chippewa Valley Technical College student Taylor Mabis had never heard of 2nd Chances or Turningpoint, the River Falls-based organization that supports domestic and sexual violence victims and runs the downtown secondhand store.

Now Mabis, a third-semester student in the business management program at CVTC's River Falls campus, not only understands Turningpoint's role in the community, he and his classmates have hands-on experience helping the organization increase its profile and raise much-needed operating funds.

Turningpoint and 2nd Chances benefitted from an infusion of volunteer help and development of some useful marketing tools.

"What these students did probably would have gone undone without their help, because we don't have the money and resources -- the time and people -- to do it. They have helped us move closer to our goals," said Kelly Zillmer, 2nd Chances manager.

While many of the project management students shared Mabis' ignorance of the organization, Turningpoint was already familiar with the class, thanks to efforts by instructor Julie Cross two years ago.

As the Journal reported in November 2010, 26 students in Cross' class at that time gave 2nd Chances a makeover, highlighting holiday merchandise and giving the store a new look for the future.

Now new students have renewed the relationship with 2nd Chances.

"This group has helped us open up to more possibilities of getting Turningpoint out there in the community. We needed to raise awareness of Turningpoint and 2nd Chances," Zillmer said.

Turningpoint bought the building next to its 125 N. Main St. headquarters that included its shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, and the 2nd Chances store.

The purchased building is being remodeled to eventually house 2nd Chances and Turningpoint offices.

To fund the project, Turningpoint kicked off a fundraising campaign centered around the sale of tiles recognizing contributors.

Cross' students dedicate some of their own time to volunteer efforts at 2nd Chances, and boosted Turningpoint's marketing efforts.

Students were divided into three groups.

One produced a promotional video for Turningpoint; another produced a portfolio of photographs on remodeling progress and a PowerPoint presentation; and a third produced a fundraising and marketing tool centered around a symbolic ladder.

The three groups made their final presentations to Turningpoint leaders last Thursday.

"The business management students have been working all semester on the projects for Turningpoint and 2nd Chances," Cross said. "We've always intended on reaching out to the community. It's part of CVTC's values."

"The video involved more than 36 hours of shooting, editing and collaborating," said student James Feltes, project manager of the video group. "We wanted to capture the remodeling of the building. The video doesn't start out asking you to buy a tile right away. We build up to that call for action."

The fundraising group came up with the image of a ladder to depict progress of the campaign.

"We thought building a ladder ourselves would be more meaningful than going out and buying a ladder and decorating it," said project manager Carrie Devney.

The ladder stands outside 2nd Chances and is used to hold posters about the fundraising program and the organization.

While Turningpoint benefitted from the students' efforts, the students learned and grew from the experience.

"I didn't want to be a project manager at first," said Michelle Engel, who headed the photography and PowerPoint group. "This project helped me learn that I can put this together."

The students also learned about problems in the community that make an organization like Turningpoint so vital.

"We're learning how big they are in the community," said Mabis. "There are people coming to them all the time."

In making their presentations last Thursday, several students told of their own experiences witnessing domestic violence, or knowing people affected by it.

Nicole Robinson related some of her experience as a child.

"There was no place for us to go, to find out others were going through the same thing," she said. "That we have someplace in our community helping people is just awesome."

Awareness spreads. Zillmer said the students will talk to others of their experiences, and that may lead someone to donate to the organization, or encourage a victim to seek help.