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United Way leads way to restore agency's services

By Katie Demeria

The United Way of Front Royal is seeking a way to provide services to Warren County that ended when Harmony Place closed earlier this year.

An exploratory meeting will be held on Friday during which the United Way will discuss all possible options with other organizations in the area.

Harmony Place was a United Way agency that offered help to individuals experiencing sexual assault and domestic violence. Since it closed, no other organization in the area has offered the same services.

"We lost those services here, they've been here for some time, and the community feels very strongly that they're still needed," said Royal Lee Smith-Osina, executive director of the United Way of Front Royal.

Smith-Osina added that the United Way's primary role is as an indirect service provider that provides funding to nonprofit agencies. She said the United Way cannot solely fund a project that would pick up Harmony Place's services.

The point of the exploratory meeting, Smith-Osina said, is to see if other groups in the community could work together, with help from the United Way, to start a cooperative effort to fund those services.

"We had been funding Harmony Place over the years, so it's a perfectly natural state for us to say that we are now without these services, we can at least spearhead an effort to start them again," she said.

The United Way has invited such groups as the Department of Social Services, House of Hope, and the Laurel Center in Winchester. The Front Royal major, Town Council, and school system have also been invited.

The hope, Smith-Osina said, is to include as many organizations as possible and get advice from groups outside the area.

"It truly is an exploratory meeting: What's out there, what can we do?" she said. "Once we get that meeting out of the way, we'll look at the results early next year, we'll see if there's a shortcut, if we have to build another domestic violence agency."

It was the closure of Harmony Place, Smith-Osina said, that has driven the United Way to host this meeting. The agency had been in Warren County for over 30 years before it closed due to financial troubles. Without it, there is no other agency in the county offering aid to those experiencing sexual assault and domestic violence.

"These services have always been necessary," Smith-Osina said. "Sad as it is, domestic violence is still an issue. While there are services in other areas nearby, there are now none locally. And we feel strongly that our community should have this service, particularly because domestic violence affects families, and we want those families to feel comfortable staying here."

The meeting will be held on at 9 a.m. Friday in the Warren County Public Safety Building at 200 Skyline Vista Drive in Front Royal.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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