New Story, New Home: A Sanctuary for Survivors

By Liz DiMarco Weinmann

As one of the bitterest cold months of the year is in full swing in Vermont, idyllic images abound — of roaring fireplaces, ice-skating on frozen ponds, steaming cups of cocoa, and puffy snowsuits that make even the tiniest human look like an overstuffed king-size pillow.

Those images are worlds apart from the raw reality that survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Rutland County endure every day. NewStory Center, the largest single provider of emergency housing in Rutland County, has for four decades dedicated its work to ending that cycle of violence.

To that end, on a brilliantly sunny and uncharacteristically mild afternoon last November, NewStory Center had at least one important reason to celebrate. Executive director Avaloy Lanning welcomed the organization’s board members, donors, neighbors, survivors and other supporters to an Open House and ribbon-cutting event for the organization’s sparkling new shelter in Rutland.

The event strengthened comprehension about why the community should support this indispensable nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values, as a sanctuary for survivors of domestic violence — regardless of the nature or extent of that violence.

“Violence happens everywhere…rural, urban, global,” Lanning noted. “These aren’t big-city problems or ‘those people’ problems,” she emphasized. “It happens in every religion, every race.  It happens to men as well as women – straight, gay, or trans.  And it happens in every economic class.”

In fact, New Story’s website includes this enlightening statement:  “Some people think they should not seek help unless they have signs of physical abuse. [But] there are many kinds of abuse — including emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse.”  [NewStory Center’s 24-hour crisis hotline is 802-775-3232.]

Through support, education, prevention, and collaboration with communities across Rutland county, NewStory’s staff of social workers, program managers, and administrators, serve women, men, and children — regardless of gender or gender expression — who are experiencing domestic and sexual violence. The staff provide comfort and validation to survivors, assuring them that the violence they have experienced is not their fault.

The organization’s refurbished facility now doubles its shelter capacity. Previously, the organization had one shelter, with the capacity to serve up to seven households, but more was needed. The new shelter — which is light-filled and airy with lots of windows throughout — can accommodate six more households. It encompasses a congregate living setting, where supportive services and community connection contribute to survivors’ healing and recovery from their trauma, plus a living room, dining area, kitchen, pantry, and accessible laundry room.

By Liz DiMarco Weinmann

Avaloy Lanning,  executive director of NewStory Center

in purple, in the foreground, welcoming NewStory

supporters at open house for new shelter.  Mayor Doenges

is behind her. 

Beyond the entrance, visitors at the Open House streamed into freshly painted rooms that contained rustic small baskets filled with notecards, indicating additional items the shelter needs — end tables, small lamps, rugs — along with suggested dollar donations (e.g., “$50 will buy…”). NewStory’s staff were on hand in each room, to describe how the specific room had been refurbished. The staff’s soft-spoken approach, coupled with the quaint baskets and discreet donation cards, made for an extremely poignant and gracious method of encouraging attendees to donate.

In the home’s sleeping areas, there are six separate bedrooms, and four bathrooms, including one bedroom and bath that is fully accessible, as well as a second-story two-bedroom apartment that was reintegrated into the home. In addition, an office with a separate exterior entrance was created to provide private, confidential meeting space for residents to meet with shelter staff and/or other advocates and service providers (such as attorneys). A new walkout basement area has been converted into serene living quarters, with two new bedrooms,  common kitchen, bath and laundry. There is also green space for children and families to enjoy.

All the beds in the new shelter are topped by multi-colored quilts handmade and donated to NewStory Center by the Maple Leaf Quilters Guild. According to Jennifer Yakunovich, NewStory’s development director, the group has been one of NewStory’s most dedicated supporters for decades. The Guild not only regularly donates quilts but also “wish list” items, and members collect cash donations at each of their monthly meetings.

To be clear, while the overall shelter is designed to exude the warmth, welcome, and well-being that suggest a happy family home, access to the shelter is restricted by combination-controlled lockboxes. It was difficult not to notice the lockboxes and their significance, reminding attendees to the Open House of the danger survivors face on an ongoing basis.

As winter progresses, NewStory Center’s new shelter does not profess to be like the quaint settings portrayed in romantic fiction, where parents and children build snowmen and bake gooey brownies as they anticipate their “happily ever after.” For survivors of domestic and sexual violence, however, the shelter serves as a gleaming beacon of optimism, a heartening bellwether helping survivors to envision a better life ahead.

Development and construction for the new shelter was funded by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, City of Rutland ARPA Funds, Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity, 3EThermal, a statewide project of Capstone Community Action, and private donations. The development team included Arnold and Scangas Architects, Naylor & Breen Builders, Inc, and Kulas Consulting, LLC.

For NewStory Center’s 24-hour crisis hotline call 802-775-3232. To learn more about donating to NewStory Center, or how to become a NewStory board member, visit:, or call the office at 802-775-6788. 

Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions:

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