In the early 1970’s, a group of women known as the Women’s Development Council were concerned about the prevalence of domestic violence around them—in their lives, their friends lives, and in the community as a whole. The idea for a shelter—a safe place for victims–was born and Mutual Ground was incorporated in August 1975. The goal of this new agency was to provide emergency shelter for families in crisis and offer 24-hour services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, to include counseling, support, and referrals to other agencies.
The first shelter opened in1978 on the top floor of a property rented from the First Presbyterian Church in Aurora. Funding was precarious and by 1980, the agency was operating on a $30,000 deficit. The nation’s economy was ailing, which at the family level translated to higher incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault. Fortunately, things turned around and in 1984 Mutual Ground purchased a two story house on North Lake Street that could serve 14 women and children. Sexual Assault services were housed in a separate building on Lincoln Ave.
The need for domestic violence services surged in the early 90’s and Mutual Ground found it was turning away hundreds of women and children each year due to lack of bed space to house them.
A search began to find a big enough building for everyone who needed “shelter from the storm.” When they came upon the Edna Smith Home at the corner of West Park and Oak Ave in Aurora, they immediately saw its many possibilities; first and foremost– the shelter area could be doubled. The 36,000 sq ft building with many bedrooms, sat on four acres, with plenty of grass and parking. The oldest wing of the building was built in 1854. However, this old building with several additions was in need of drastic renovation, updated furnaces, plumbing and air-conditioning. The area that was once a church sanctuary needed to be remodeled in offices and group rooms. There would be many challenges all over the building.
Nevertheless in 1995, following an enormous $2.3 million capital campaign, Mutual Ground was able to purchase and renovate the building. And after more than 20 years of Sexual Assault Services in one location and Domestic Violence Services in another, Mutual Ground could finally put all services in one place in 1996.
Today, in a given year, Mutual Ground provides services to about 1,500 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, our prevention education program is in 1,750 classrooms and we can accommodate 28 women and their children in our emergency shelter. Our budget is now at $1.8million with a staff of 43 and calls to the hotline exceed 1500 every month.