Aug. 2, 2001- A committed group of about 50 private citizens, mental health professionals, business leaders and government supporters converged on a quiet residential area in the hills above Cruz Bay Wednesday to take the stand against domestic violence on St. John one step further.
Their gathering place, in Estate Grunwald, was the future site of Lucy's Place, the Safety Zone's soon-to-be domestic violence shelter. The event, organized by Safety Zone executive director Iris Kern and scheduled to include the project's primary benefactor, Dr. Peter G.W. Keen, formally recognized the site acquisition and funding of initial construction. The shelter design, contributed by St. John architect Theresa S. Roberts, is a two-story structure with accommodations for 15 clients in six bedrooms along with kitchen, office and counseling spaces.
Kern is the driving force behind the long-planned shelter. A St. John resident since the mid-1980s, she has counseled many troubled patients in her career as a mental-health professional. She says her work on St. John has focused community attention on "the issue of power and control in relationships." It has also attracted supporters to her mission.
In 1994, one of her clients, 24-year-old Lucy Keen, took her own life. "Her last years were a brave struggle to conquer her severe depression and work her way into a new life," the young woman's father, Peter Keen, related. "In St. John, she seemed so close to succeeding but in the end just could not keep going."
One way he chose to honor his daughter's memory was that "in her name, I joined with Iris Kern to launch the Safety Zone seven years ago. Since then, Iris has built it up to be a highly effective service, with the help of many individuals, agencies and the St. John community. What has been missing is the safe house where victims can be helped to become first survivors and then victors."
Keen, with the backing of his wife, Sherry, and his other two children, purchased the Estate Grunwald site and donated it to the Safety Zone for the shelter, to be named for Lucy. "Naming it for her is more than just a memorial," Keen says. "It captures who she was — a good person, a troubled person, and a caring person. The Safety Zone takes care of people in trouble and helps them escape a world of violence, despair and hopelessness. It gives them a new chance at a good life."
The not-for-profit Safety Zone offers intervention and help for families experiencing domestic violence. It also assists victims of other crime and island visitors facing crises while away from home. "Our mission is to provide direct services to battered women, men and children and all victims of violent crime," Kern has written.
The shelter construction is being undertaken with funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant program and "the ongoing efforts of the Safety Zone volunteers and staff," according to Kern. She said that bids from contractors for the work will be accepted starting next week.
Attending the symbolic groundbreaking and speaking out emphatically against domestic violence in the Virgin Islands were Sens. Lorraine Berry and Roosevelt David. Offering brief comments were Julien Harley, St. John administrator; Lt. Rene Garcia, St. John police commander; Shawn-Michael Malone, representing Delegate Donna Christian Christensen; Aubrey E. Bridgewater Sr., representing Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd; Antoinette Philpot, representing the Planning and Natural Resources Department; Lee Vanterpool, representing the Health Department; and Ianthe Fahie from Juel Molloy's office in Government House.
According to Safety Zone literature, the agency "has designed a variety of community-based programs which provide information and support and often serve as the springboard for life-changing steps for victims." Further information and assistance may be obtained by calling either 693-SAFE (693-7233) or 690-SAFE (690-7233).


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