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131-year-old home on Dorothy’s House campus demolished, launching capital campaign


A 131-year-old home on the Dorothy’s House campus gets demolished Tuesday. Photo by John Retzlaff

Kellie Markey, founder of Dorothy’s House, stood with other onlookers Tuesday morning and watched a 131-year-old home on the organization’s campus get demolished. While the end of an era for the structure, it was a new beginning for the property and the organization, which provides a safe place and programming for survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Dorothy’s House kicked off a $500,000 capital campaign to rebuild the property, including more bedrooms for the survivors, who are for the most part referred from other advocacy organizations in Iowa. The property was previously being used for programming and staff meetings, but was not a livable space. The foundation was crumbling, the sump pump was not worth fixing, and many other issues continued to become apparent since the home was acquired in 2014 for the Dorothy’s House campus. The new home will be livable and will be particularly beneficial for survivors who are transitioning from the programs back into their communities.  

“Most people think this problem affects people not from here, but most of us are one step away from knowing someone affected,” Markey said. The organization focuses on providing a safe space, healing and programs to help survivors reclaim their lives. Gardening, for example, is a therapeutic technique used by the organization.   

The campaign has a goal of $500,000. The estimated cost of rebuilding the home is $250,000 and the other $250,000 will go toward operations for opening the space. They hope to have the foundation poured later this week and the home completed in June or July.  

The new space will be a welcome change. Markey said there has been a consistent waitlist and the phone has been ringing off the hook with need for the services. The new space will also meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, which will make the program applicable for federal funding. 

“The depth of this trauma requires a different kind of help,” she said. “A place to live will not be enough for them.”

The demolition was funded by Polk County. Most of the organization’s funds come from local and statewide donors.

Dorothy’s House lists the following opportunities with the new home: 

  • Lower cost of operations per individual per day.
  • Room to help five more girls bring about change in their lives.
  • Quiet/private places for programming.
  • A proper office.
  • Better security/safety.
  • On-site exercise, play and spaces to heal.

To learn more or to make a donation, visit https://dorothyshouse.org/

Editor’s note: The location of the property and campus were intentionally left out to protect the survivors.

Kellie Markey, founder of Dorothy’s House, inside a house on the organization’s campus ahead of its demolition on Tuesday. Submitted photo

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