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 by Rachel Kytonen
Forest Lake Times

An area woman who spent her entire adult career serving survivors of domestic violence, while also successfully leading the charge for the opening of the first emergency domestic violence shelter in Isanti and Chisago counties, is being honored for her lasting legacy.

Roxie Karelis, who died unexpectedly on Nov. 13, 2020, at the age of 65, served as the executive director of The Refuge Network from January 2007 until The Refuge merged with Family Pathways in 2014. The Refuge, which served both Isanti and Chisago counties, provided support services to victims of domestic violence such as crisis intervention, information and referral, advocacy, court assistance, hospital and law enforcement response, support groups, community education, mediation and paralegal services and emergency shelter.

During Karelis’ celebration of life service held Oct. 16 in Cambridge, it was announced that a group of family and friends of Karelis have launched a nonprofit in her honor, called Roxie’s Hope. The mission of Roxie’s Hope is to provide financial assistance to survivors of domestic violence who are living in a shelter and transitioning to independent living.

A fundraiser for Roxie’s Hope will be held on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the American Legion in Forest Lake, 55 W. Broadway Ave. The event will be fall bingo featuring designer purses with doors opening at 1 p.m. and bingo beginning at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $30 in advance and can be purchased at www.roxieshopemn.org or by calling 612-390-3663. Tickets will also be sold for $35 at the door (limited seats available). The admission price includes a bingo packet, dauber and one raffle ticket. There will be 10 regular games and one coverall. Besides bingo there will be raffles, a wine pull and a 50/50 cash drawing.

Following the merger of The Refuge and Family Pathways in 2014, Karelis joined Family Pathways’ leadership team as the director of community services, where she assumed responsibility for youth and senior services, as well as continued to oversee The Refuge’s operations.

Karelis was instrumental in establishing Black Dog Hill, an emergency shelter that opened between Isanti and Chisago counties in February 2009. At the time of its opening, Black Dog Hill was the only emergency shelter serving women and children of domestic violence in Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, Carlton, Pine and Aitkin counties.

Rahya Geisler, who worked with Karelis during her entire duration at The Refuge and is the board chair of Roxie’s Hope, explained after Karelis’ death, Karelis’ daughter, Trisha Karelis, was going through her mother’s things and found papers, doodles and notes and realized her mother was in the stages of planning a new nonprofit.

“I personally had this overwhelming drive to do something in her name, in her honor, on her behalf, to continue her legacy,” Geisler said. “So Trisha brought up the stuff she found and brought it up to our group and we were like, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ and ‘Hey, this is what we want to do with this.’ And so we just started getting together, informally and formally in March, and it was all to plan this memorial, but then it turned into Roxie’s Hope board meetings/planning committee. And we all feel like Roxie has been driving us, guiding us to do this.”

Geisler explained the name, Roxie’s Hope, also came from Karelis. The vision of Roxie’s Hope is to create a world of hope and independence for survivors of domestic violence.

“We found some of her handwritten notes and she was tinkering around with some names such as ‘hope consulting,’ and so we were trying to come up a name and someone just blurted out, ‘How about Roxie’s Hope?’” Geisler said. “And then the tagline is again from Roxie’s notes where she had quoted Trisha’s daughter, Roxie’s granddaughter, Jenecie. And the tagline reads, ‘Hope flowers; because everyone needs hope and flowers make people happy.’ And so that’s where we got our tagline; literally, we just took Roxie’s work and doodles and it came up.”

The board members for Roxie’s Hope includes Geisler, Trisha Karelis, Char Weidendorf, Suzanne Butzow, Susan Morris, Vicki Hurt, Jim Lorge, Adrianna Fore and Jenny Lorge.

Financial assistance provided to survivors of domestic violence transitioning to independent living will be in the form of grants to help pay for things such as rental payments, car repairs, transportation needs, child care, utilities and fees for education.

For more information on Roxie’s Hope visit www.roxieshopemn.org or find Roxie’s Hope on Facebook.