Well House Ministry hosts open house at old school building

By : 
Cadence McManimon

On August 25, 2019, Well House Ministry hosted a Back-to-School event to launch their campaign for turning the old Rushford-Peterson Elementary/High School property into Well House Healing Spa, a healing program for survivors of trauma.

“We had about 10 different booths, including a spot where people could donate their school supplies {to charity} and where Well House Ministry had a concept design plan,” said Sherryl Brunner of Well House Ministry. “There were some artisans and craftspeople, the local Usborne books salesperson who is part of our core team, a kids tent with rock painting, and a prayer tent for any needs . . . It started as a glorious day, but then we got some rain, wind, lost some tents, and all sorts of other things.”

Due to the turn in weather, not as many people showed up to the event as Brunner hoped, but there was a solid turnout of about 200 community members who showed interest in the project and the impact it would have on our community.

“Of course now, we’re already planning for the next event so more people have a chance to see what it is we’re looking to do,” Brunner said.

Brunner and husband Bruce, both Pastors, have owned and operated Well House Ministry in Rushford since 2015. This church ministry provides pastoral counseling, emotional healing, and prayer support for survivors of PTSD, trauma, and abuse.

In June of 2019, Well House Ministry finalized the purchase of the old R-P Elementary and High School buildings, with plans to revamp these historic Rushford buildings into a large healing center that provides their services, recreational and creative therapy, naturopathic and herbal services, and a therapeutic spa.

Brunner’s vision is a 28-day healing program complete with a guesthouse, local food services, and transitional housing units. The campaign has a goal of raising $20 million dollars within two years to lift this project off the ground.

According to Brunner, attendees at the Back-to-School event were excited about the project. “People were very positive!” she said. “The biggest comment we received is that they are so glad someone is saving the building . . . They like the concept of what we are looking to do. You could see people thinking of classmates or people they knew of, how they could help.”

Attendees had some questions and concerns about the upcoming project, especially in regards to what clientele this program might bring into the heart of Rushford. Survivors of trauma and PTSD sufferers often have a history involving violence, abuse, or constant fear.

Brunner believes that the first thing to do is to ensure the clientele have chosen to be there. “Our vision is the people coming for our more intensive 28 program, or week program, is that they have to want to come,” she said. “They need to come as an individual, looking to be whole and healed. I think that makes a big difference, because that gives us a way of vetting those that come through.”

The Brunners insist they do not want this program to turn into a “get out of jail free card.” They realize the possibility of applicants misusing the program in order to avoid other services they might need to complete first, such as professional psychiatry or medical care at other facilities. “The best way to dispel fear is to face it, and you face that fear by being involved and knowing the people in the program,” Brunner said. “There are so many people [in Rushford] who could volunteer their time, or work into a paid position, to get to know the people and help shape how we’re running the program.”

In addition to interest coming from counseling programs and facilities in La Crosse, Wis., Brunner said there’s always a need for healing centers for those receiving counseling care, and word of Well House Ministries has begun to spread. “Mostly where our interest has come from is a combat PTSD sufferer here in town, who see counselors at the veteran center in La Crosse. Counselors would love to come here to practice. We’re playing with the details,” Brunner said, noting that Well House Ministry is focused primarily on the building renovation at the moment.

Well House Ministry will have one solid requirement for staffing in the future. “Anyone who works for us would have to be a Christian believer,” Brunner stated. “We’re still wrestling with how we do that with counselors coming in . . . But I do believe we’ll have income and support coming from LaCrosse and Rochester as well, as people are already reaching out to us from Mayo Clinic and such.

“We’re open to it and we’ll have way more space available than what we may or may not need, depending on how we kick this off. Some of our volunteer pastoral counseling doesn’t require a fancy degree to work on this [program], but we still have the opportunity to draw from different knowledge bases and different counselors.”

What can Rushford expect to see from Well House Ministries in the coming months? “We will be looking at having another event this fall,” Brunner announced. “There are some items that the school is leaving behind in the building that will have to go. We are likely closer than next year for starting in the affordable housing {work}, and we could very well start working on the engineering and design maybe this winter . . . We want to keep the costs as low as possible to keep rent as low as possible.”

For anyone who is interested in keeping up with Well House Ministry, please visit their website at wellhouseministry.org, or visit their Facebook page with the same name. The Brunners plan to post volunteer calls there, so that Rushford community members can have a chance to pitch in and help with the remodel. They expect they will need cleaners, painters, designers, and decorators as the reconstruction moves forward.

Brunner would love to see the community pull together and help build their vision for the future. “God created us to be creative and made everything around us to heal us,” she said. “That’s what this whole thing is about. People can get engaged and use their time and talent and resources to pitch in to this new community project!”