By Dale King The Pineapple Contributing Writer PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL – AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse), the agency that provides an array of services to abuse victims in south Palm Beach County, is well on its way to building a new and enlarged domestic violence center. Officials and supporters of the organization that began its mission in 1986 gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking, marking the start of the $1.2 million project given the name, “AVDA’s Rebuilding Lives Renewing Hope Campaign.” The new structure will be built on the site of the existing shelter, a 60-year-old building that had already been razed when the groundbreaking took place Dec. 3. The new building that can house 43 people will increase capacity by 18 beds. The shelter is in an undisclosed location, for the safety of residents. The effort, said Pam O’Brien, the agency’s president and CEO, “is all about listening to the needs of those we serve and the community. We are addressing a critical and immediate need with this campaign. AVDA is the only domestic violence program with extended shelter services in Palm Beach County.” In 2013, AVDA was selected to be one of 11 certified domestic violence centers in the state to receive part of a special allocation of funds to help state-certified domestic violence centers expand shelter capacity. State funding will provide about 50 percent of the project cost, but the other 50 percent must be raised by the organization. To date, AVDA has either received funds or commitments for $900,000 to pay for the shelter, O’Brien said. “In order to complete the building, $300,000 must be raised by March 2015.” Some grant money is pending, she noted. A substantial portion of existing funding — $250,000 – has been given by an anonymous donor, said the CEO. “Numerous private donations have come in, along with a challenge donation of $50,000 from a private family foundation.” County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a former mayor of Boca Raton, recalled that the city “was one of the few municipalities to contribute funding to the agency” starting in the late 1980s. Among those in the crowd at the groundbreaking were other AVDA supporters, including Ben and Rosemary Krieger of Boca Raton, who have donated generously to support the facility. Anne Vegso, who, with her husband, Peter, are also Boca philanthropists, contributed the money to build Casa Vegso on the site. They also provided the funding for an emergency transitional housing and wellness center which opened in 2005. Currently, AVDA shelters more than 400 people and provides help to more than 8,600 people annually. It is the fifth largest shelter in Florida in terms of capacity and is one of the few that provides comprehensive services, including helping survivors provide for themselves once they leave the shelter, and providing school wellness checks and shots for children in the facility. The organization’s mission is to promote violence-free relationships and social change by offering alternative choices to end violence and domestic abuse. AVDA’s Health and Wellness program offers group trainings on matters concerning health, nutrition and exercise. In collaboration with the Florida Atlantic University School of Nursing, a nurse- practitioner is on-site monthly to provide individuals physical medical care consultations, including vaccinations for residents. Those in the shelter can also participate in Anne’s STEPS, a nationally recognized economic empowerment program to help residents become financially self-sufficient. In addition, AVDA offers training to healthcare professionals, law enforcement personnel, social services agencies, employers and community groups on the topic of domestic violence. Each training or talk is tailored specifically to the needs of the group or organization. For more information visit www.avdaonline.org or call (561) 265-3797.