HVAC collapse forces closure of Crisis Center

Jun. 23—A collapsing air conditioning unit last Thursday at their at 1924 Broadway location in Great Bend has caused a crisis for the Family Crisis Center. The office that houses its Domestic and Sexual Violence Center, Child Advocacy Center and administrative staff was forced to close with no admittance allowed, said center Executive Director Joanne Wondra.

“This unexpected closure has brought many questions,” she said. But, she stressed, “we’re still here.”

During their work day Thursday, the heating and air conditioning system, which had leaked for years, crashed through the ceiling into the offices below, she said. As fate would have it, the offices most impacted were empty at the time.

“But for the grace of God, no one was hurt,” she said. “We were blessed.”

They had 10 minutes in hard hats and masks to gather up what they could salvage before having to leave. Now the City of Great Bend has ordered the structure closed until further notice and the investigation continues, Wondra said.

“We have no office space,” she said, noting they also lost all their office supplies. “We are homeless.”

They are reverting to their COVID-19 protocols and are working from home. People have stepped up to offer a place to store their confidential records and temporary meeting rooms.

“We are actively looking for property,” Wondra said, adding they had leased their current office and are looking to do so again. They have their eyes on a couple possibilities, but these would require significant remodeling.

Complicating the situation is the center’s grant year begins July 1. This means what they can spend on a new home is already set.

The show goes on

In the meantime, “we are open,” she said. “We are doing what we can.”

As for domestic and sexual violence services, all services are by appointment only until further notice. “We’re working with community partners for meeting spaces,” Wondra said.

She urged those needing help to call to make an appointment or to speak with an advocate at 620-792-1885.

With child advocacy services, “we’re still in the brainstorming process with providing forensic interviews to our partners,” she said. She encouraged their partners to call with any questions and keep an eye out for updates on their next steps with providing forensic interviews.

Some area police departments have offered space for these interviews.

However, their shelter and Pratt outreach services have not been affected, Wondra said

What can the public do? “Monetary donations are needed now,” Wondra said, noting those wanting to give can call her.

They are unable to accept material donations at this time due to the building closure.

“We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Great Bend Fire/EMS Department and Great Bend Police Department for their swift responses last Thursday,” she said.

The center covers Barber, Barton, Comanche, Edwards, Kiowa, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush and Stafford counties. The Dell Hayden Memorial Child Advocacy Center housed in the Family Crisis Center covers Barton, Pawnee, Rush and Stafford counties.

The building, located a Main and Broadway, was originally the Great Bend Post Office. It has also housed federal offices and a children’s clinic over the years.

For questions and more information, call Wondra at 620-792-1885. One may be placed on hold or called back as they navigate their communications.

She can also be emailed at [email protected].