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Gwinnett gets state's largest domestic violence shelter

Staff Photo: John Bohn Sandra Strickland, a fund raising campaign co-chair, discusses details leading up to the grand opening of a new Partnership Against Domestic Violence shelter in Lawrenceville on Tuesday. The new shelter will increase the number of beds available to victims of domestic violence in Gwinnett County by 50%.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Sandra Strickland, a fund raising campaign co-chair, discusses details leading up to the grand opening of a new Partnership Against Domestic Violence shelter in Lawrenceville on Tuesday. The new shelter will increase the number of beds available to victims of domestic violence in Gwinnett County by 50%.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn A room for a family of four is shown during the grand opening of a new Partnership Against Domestic Violence shelter in Lawrenceville held Tuesday. The new shelter will increase the number of beds available to victims of domestic violence in Gwinnett County by 50%.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Truett Bishop, a chef with TEP Catering, works in the kitchen during the grand opening of a new Partnership Against Domestic Violence shelter in Lawrenceville held Tuesday. The new shelter will increase the number of beds available to victims of domestic violence in Gwinnett County by 50%. Families staying at the shelter will be able to use the kitchen to prepare meals for themselves.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn During the grand opening of a new Partnership Against Domestic Violence shelter in Lawrenceville onTuesday, fund raising campaign co-chairs Theresa Bullock, left, and her mother Sandra Strickland discuss details of the new facility. The new shelter will increase the number of beds available to victims of domestic violence in Gwinnett County by 50%.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County now has the largest domestic violence shelter in the state, a gorgeous new two-story facility tucked away behind a rolling gate in an undisclosed part of Lawrenceville.

Unfortunately, it needs it.

The Partnership Against Domestic Violence's new Gwinnett home is nearly 14,000 square feet and has 55 beds, not to mention pristine new living rooms, playrooms and a massive laundry facility. Officially opening today, it dwarfs the group's old facility, with more than twice the room and about 50 percent more beds.

It's needed, PADV President and CEO Meagan Fulmer said, because Georgia is the country's No. 6 state in terms of domestic violence -- and Gwinnett has the dubious distinction of having the most domestic violence-related homicides in the state.

"To me it's revolutionizing the service that we're going to be able to provide to the women and children we serve," Fulmer said Tuesday. "This is going to be such an uplifting, amazing experience for the women who come here. We can impact more lives. I think that's what it's all about."

In the past year, PADV's Gwinnett shelter served 266 individuals for a total of 9,411 "bed nights" and 28,233 meals. Those numbers can now be even greater, thanks to the borderline miraculous fundraising efforts made by captain co-chair Sandra Strickland and Theresa Bullock.

Mother and daughter helped raise the $4.4 million to buy, renovate and beautify the formerly empty space outright, and did it in only about a year.

Because of their efforts, the nonprofit will have no mortgage to worry about.

"Everything is paid for, all the money has been raised," Strickland said. "It took everybody to make this day possible. But the whole of Gwinnett County really came together ... Anybody that would open their door (during fundraising), we were there."

Added Bullock: "We had a lot of meetings in that year. A lot. Everywhere."

The facility is painted in soothing cool colors, has living spaces divided into "quiet rooms" and noisier ones, a kitchen that can offer separate stoves for families to cook their own meals, and a type of boutique were residents can "shop" for clothes.

It's all spacious, brand new and inviting.

"It's just wonderful," Bullock said. "To know that this is going to be a healing place, it's just great."

Those interested in donating to the Gwinnett shelter can call 404-870-9600, visit padv.org or send mail to P.O. Box 170225, Atlanta, GA, 30317.