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WCCRP 'not going down'; Crisis workers seek

Gloria Junker, director for WCCRP

Volunteers and employees of the Wadena County Crisis and Referral Program (WCCRP) welcomed a group of community leaders with sloppy Joes, chips, bars and lemonade in their building Wednesday, in hopes of hearing suggestions on how to keep their program alive.

Local authorities, business representatives and organization members sat down for a bite, and then listened as crisis members talked about the state's decision to shut down their program.

"We're not going down. We refuse to stop giving out services," said Gloria Junker, director for WCCRP.

Last month, Junker received a letter from Minnesota's Office of Justice Programs that said WCCRP would stop receiving funding as of Sept. 30. And earlier this week, she learned that Someplace Safe, a crime and victim services organization based out of Fergus Falls, might be taking the local WCCRP group's place as the region's main crisis center.

Junker said Someplace Safe doesn't offer nearly as many services as WCCRP, and the non-local group is being less than truthful.

"If Someplace Safe comes in, it's going to be more of a women's program," she said, adding that Someplace Safe has lied about being able to also serve area men, elderly individuals and children. "Someplace Safe is not being honest."

Junker said WCCRP is essential for area individuals in need, and she and her staff will be seeking grants as well as donations from the private sector and businesses, and they are appealing the state's decision to cut funding.

She added that a benefit of WCCRP is that it is affordable, compared to other crisis programs, most of which offer fewer services.

"We're the cheapest rate around the state," she said.

Wadena Police Chief Bruce Uselman was present at the meeting, and said he and other authorities might be able to help if WCCRP tracked down statistics highlighting the demographics WCCRP has served.

Uselman added that the services provided by WCCRP have been extremely helpful to local law enforcement.

Though it hasn't had to, WCCRP has been a crucial resource for surrounding counties too, Junker said.

Wadena County Commission Chairman Ralph Miller wondered if WCCRP's assistance to neighboring counties was creating problems, and suggested billing counties that have been receiving free services from the local crisis center.

"It seems to me it would be a little bit appropriate to send them a bill," he said.

Emily Steinert also attended the meeting, and wondered if partnering with Someplace Safe was a possibility. Junker said she might meet with the Fergus Falls group to discuss such an option.

Sailer also wondered if teaming up with Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership would be helpful, adding that the organization is "well-run."

No solid answers were given during Wednesday's meeting. And when Junker asked if she had support at the end of the meeting, the room fell silent.

But before any steps can be taken at the local level, Junker is focused on hearing the results of her appeal to the state. For now, she and her fellow workers are merely interested doing what they do best: helping those in need.

"We believe in what we do," she said.