HISTORY AND PEOPLE

Who We Are

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History of the Relationship Safety Alliance

Founded in 1978 by Louise Seliski, with the support of a grant through the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the Mid-Minnesota Women’s Center became the fifth battered women’s shelter in the state. Since its beginning, the shelter has provided critical services and a haven to women and children experiencing domestic violence. Louise served as the Executive Director until 2011 when she retired.

 

Originally a large, old home at 13th and Oak streets in southeast Brainerd, the shelter accepted its first family in August of 1978. The original shelter was intended to house six women and children, though was often over-capacity. In 1995, the existing shelter was built in southeast Brainerd and has a 26-bed capacity in six bedrooms. The shelter operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and serves about 120 people annually.

 

Built so it can be divided into two sections, the shelter was able to expand beyond serving just women and their children to serving all people that suffer relationship abuse and need a place for safety. When the shelter is full, temporary housing in local hotels is provided through the use of special grant funds. Early on in our history, Louise recognized that pets are often also abused and bringing them to the shelter with their families provided meaningful comfort. This organization is unique in that family pets are welcomed and the many benefits of their presence within the shelter are embraced.

History of the Alex & Brandon Child Safety Center

The Brainerd Lakes community was devastated when 5-year-old Alex and 4-year-old Brandon were murdered at the hands of their father in July of 1996. Through the generosity of many, about $450,000 was raised to build the Alex & Brandon Child Safety Center which opened in Brainerd in 2000 and typically facilitates about 1,200 supervised child visits per year. The Safety Center serves as a place for court-ordered, supervised visitations and safe exchanges of children between parents/caregivers. In recent years we have also seen the need for visitations between parents and their adult children as a result of elder abuse.

Our Present and Future

In 2022, our organization adopted the name Relationship Safety Alliance to better encompass our services and represent the people with which we engage. Our clients have changed over the past 40 years. Being inclusive, equitable and welcoming to those experiencing relationship abuse is crucial to the wellbeing and empowerment of these individuals. Our aim is to be the resource that pulls together survivors and advocates under the safe umbrella of healthy relationships where abuse is not tolerated, and individuals have the resources to succeed. Read frequently asked questions about our name change here.

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Staff

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Shannon Wussow, Executive Director
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Mary Savage
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Karen Wussow
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Faith Rono
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Cindy Westberg

Board of Directors

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Kristi Ackley
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Jim Grant, Treasurer
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Mike Kuck, Chair
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Jeff Birks
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John Ingleman
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Troy Schreifels
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Betsy Egan, Secretary
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Alicia Kapus
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Amanda Schwarzkopf
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Michelle Francis
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Heather Kelm, Vice Chair