WILLIMANTIC/NEW LONDON — An insurance agency is donating its Willimantic-based storefront to the New-London-based domestic violence agency Safe Futures; the building’s sale will support the construction of a multi-purpose center for domestic violence victims in Waterford.
The single-story building, located at 757 Main Street in Willimantic, was previously the offices of Sumner & Sumner insurance agency. Brendan Quinn and Victor Ebersole, Jr., president and vice president of Sumner & Sumner, said in a joint statement that they were able to sell the building because their business had decided to shift permanently to remote work.
“We could not be prouder to partner with this wonderful organization and be part of the work they are doing,” Quinn and Ebersole said in the statement.
Kathy Verano, the CEO of Safe Futures, said that the building has been placed on the market, and that the proceeds of the sale will kick off a capital campaign to build the Waterford-based family justice center.
Verano explained that the family justice center would house all the necessary services for a victim of domestic violence — police, prosecutors, counseling, child care and housing services — under a single roof. Currently, she said, these services are scattered across the region, which makes it difficult for victims to bring their cases to trial.
“Say a mom with two kids has to go to court, then social services, and then to here and then to the police department … it’s impossible. They have to take time off of work,” she said. “So the probability of having prosecution on cases gets smaller and smaller and smaller.”
Beyond making it easier for victims to access services, Verano also said that having police officers, lawyers and service providers in the same building makes it easier to educate people about the specific needs of domestic violence victims.
“It changes the culture of our region over time. And that’s the goal,” she said.
Domestic violence agencies across the state saw an increase in victims during the pandemic, and Verano said the need is still high. Safe Futures served 9,707 clients in 2021, a 39 percent increase from the previous year.
The agency has already purchased the land for the center — a 23,000 square foot former Christmas tree farm. It’s a centralized location for the agency, which serves 21 towns across New London County.
“It is [at] the most within a half hour to every one of the 21 towns we serve,” said Verano.
Verano said building the center, which will include a virtual courtroom, forensic interview rooms and spaces for children, will cost several million dollars. She said she hopes to have it built within two years.
Gregory Massad, vice chair of the Safe Futures Board of Directors, said the Willimantic building, whose sale will help kick off their fundraising campaign, has an appraised value of over $500,000. He said he hoped the donation would inspire others.
“Hopefully, it will spur some like-minded people,” he said. “If we can find some other generous donors who can take advantage of their tax situation and help out Safe Futures, we’d very much appreciate it.”