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Berks Women in Crisis shelter reveals new space for healing

By Liz Kilmer, Reporter, LKilmer@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 21 2013 03:31:50 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 21 2013 05:38:25 PM CST

A shelter for victims of domestic and sexual abuse unveiled a unique gift Thursday.

READING, Pa. -

A shelter for victims of domestic and sexual abuse unveiled a unique gift Thursday.

Berks Women in Crisis is now home to a first-of-its-kind "Nature Explore Classroom," located on the rooftop of the Chestnut Street safe house.

The classroom, complete with gardens and outdoor activities, is meant to provide residents with a calming, natural environment.

"As research shows us, the connection to nature is healing, not just for kids but for adults," said Mary Kay Bernosky, executive director, Berks Women in Crisis. "The more disconnected from our natural world, the more disconnected we feel."

Bernosky was joined Thursday by fellow staff and community members for a dedication ceremony for the classroom, funded entirely by the Mary Kay cosmetics company.

Company representative Kirsten Gappelberg told 69 News the classroom cost close to $40,000 to build, and is one of 20 others throughout the country. But the Berks classroom, she said, is unlike any others.

"It's a unique space; it's not on grass, it's on a rooftop. So it's something we've never done before," said Gappelberg, noting that the classroom is also the first in Pennsylvania.

According to Bernosky, the space will be utilized year-round for different activities, like gardening in the spring, and building snowmen in the winter.

"We think there's just a whole lot that we can do with it," said Bernosky, "but the primary reason is to have some place beautiful, that our residents, who are in the midst of what is the worst time in their lives, have that space to just heal themselves."

One resident told 69 News she feels "blessed" by the classroom.

"It'll help you clear your thoughts," she said.