Springs Eternal for Women in Need
Wellspring walk-center serves as a sanctuary in Green Bay
When you hear the word Wellspring, you can’t help but put yourself in a happy place. Although it was originally named by the Catholic sisters who first conceived of the daytime walk-in center for women, we continue to serve the Green Bay community by operating the day-time drop in center, providing a place of peace for women.
Wellspring actually means a source of continuous or abundant supply, which is exactly what the center provides for the growing number of adult homeless, mentally ill or cognitively challenged women who seek refuge there. New clients continue to discover this daytime haven as its reputation grows and the need for its services expands due to the growing number of women living on the streets or in their cars.
Many women turn to Wellspring searching for a place where they can heal, connect, grow and get on their feet again. For women in transition, Wellspring serves as another family, a place to belong, a friend away from home – with programming that focuses on mind, body and spirit.
Opening Wellspring’s doors for the first time
Strategically located in an impoverished area of downtown Green Bay where it’s needed most, Wellspring opens its doors to all women 18 years or older from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Eighteen years ago, the sisters noted a gap in service for area women who needed safety, security and a feeling of belonging and 16 years ago opened the doors to Wellspring. Today, Wellspring serves more than 200 women who visit more than 4,200 times a year seeking peer support, personal growth opportunities, resources and referrals.
“One day in October this year set a new record for the number of women accessing the center – 30 in one day,” shared Jane Jordan, Wellspring program supervisor who runs the center with primarily volunteer help. “The average number of clients we see per day is 18, but one day in October, five new women appeared who had not walked through our doors before. This trend has continued throughout the fall months, where we’re seeing a new woman seeking a place to belong every day.”
A peaceful place to heal
Sixty percent of the women who visit Wellspring have some type of disability, and many are undiagnosed mental illness or cognitive disabilities. That’s why Wellspring offers many services to help its clients with tasks that often seem overwhelming, like completing online job and housing applications, and signing HIPPA consent forms.
“In the last month, five formerly homeless women now have jobs, and three homeless women have received their Section 8 housing vouchers to help them pay for apartment rent,” noted Jordan.
The center provides a support system for many who have broken family relationships, according to Jordan who serves as a mother figure to many of them. “We’ve noted a 26 percent increase in the number of women attending programs in the third quarter this year compared to last year,” stated Jordan. “Programs that help our clients deal with mental health issues, and music and art therapy are very popular. We support a walking group to promote wellness, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension puts on classes on eating healthy foods, portion control.”
Enjoying one good meal a day
An article in the newspaper reported on the center’s need for food, which spurred a local man to step up and donate. After attending an open house, the quiet 70-year-old man now brings in food every Monday. “He’ll provide a loaf of bread, sandwich meat and cheese, cans of soup, plates and napkins, plus he gives me $6 a week, which I use for bus passes,” stated Jordan. “Some people call and ask if they can bring in food, like sub sandwiches, which is wonderful. I only have $35 a week to spend on food for the women, but somehow it all works out due to donations. During the last week of the month, clients’ FoodShares vouchers run out, so the need for food is especially great.”
The clients also cook at the center with an electric fry pan, toaster oven, a two burner hot plate and donated cookware. “Women of different nationalities like to cook food from their backgrounds, like American Indian or Hispanic specialties,” said Jordan “They love to share their cultures – it gives them a way to give back and pay it forward.”
Rainy days and Mondays
“Mondays are tough days for these women,” noted Jordan. “Some are agitated from being in difficult situations since Friday. So, we provide music programs on Mondays to help ease their minds and calm them down. And on Tuesday, we offer art projects, which result in a calming effect by using a different part of people’s brains, easing fears.”
For example, Wellspring offers Zentangle – a form of doodling that uses wiggles and squiggles. The clients talk while they work, which provides relaxation, increases focus and results in a sense of personal well-being.
Practicing compassionate listening
Wellspring thrives due to its volunteers, two who work the morning shift and two in the afternoon each day. Volunteers offer compassionate support to the women by sitting and playing cards and board games, and teaching knitting and crocheting, among other offerings.
Jordan feels very graced that in the four years she has worked at Wellspring only two women were loud and belligerent, and they were asked to leave. The center’s clients wrote a code of conduct for participants, which is posted:
- Respect one another
- Confidentiality – no gossip
- Use manners – please and thank you go a long way
- Use table manners
- Talking using your inside voice – this includes on the telephone
- Be open and honest about your needs
- Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger
For women in abusive situations, center staff and volunteers help them see that it’s okay to leave bad situations by practicing reflective listening. “Here’s what I heard you say and then repeat it back,” said Jordan. “After that, our clients often say, ‘I guess I did say that.’ The women go through phases of awareness, acceptance and action – it takes them time to feel safe and confident, and to begin to make changes.”
Keys to Her Own Front Door: How Wellspring Changed Anita's Life
At age 45, you don’t expect to suddenly jump back into daily care of three young children who aren’t your own. But that’s exactly what happened when Anita, an LSS Wellspring client, lost her daughter due to a heart issue. Although Anita has cared for her grandchildren since 2011, she did not have an appropriate place for them to live.
“I first came to Wellspring and year and a half ago when a friend brought me for a Christmas event,” recalled Anita. “I felt welcome right away, and it didn’t seem to matter to the others that I was new. It’s nice to have someone to talk with and friends to keep you busy.”
To address her housing issue, Wellspring’s program director, Jane Jordan, helped Anita apply for a Habitat for Humanity house by clearing up her credit score and helping her log enough volunteer hours to qualify. “Jane helped me pull up my credit report, compete all the paperwork and send out the application for a house for my grandchildren and me,” exclaimed Anita.
“The day we found out she was approved for the home, we looked up the location on Google Maps to find the property,” said Jordan. Anita applied for her house on June 18, and her application was approved on August 26. Amazingly, the following day, the digging began on her soon-to-be three-bedroom home in Allouez, Wisconsin, just south of Green Bay. She’s very excited about Family Day when she and her family can work on the construction of their new home – together.
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