Conflicting emotions and red and purple balloons were prevalent Friday afternoon at the open house for the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center in south Brainerd.
Patty Wetterling, whose own son, Jacob, was abducted more than 10 years ago, told the guests there was a hole in her heart on the opening of such centers. However, she also spoke of the joy felt on such an occasion.
"This is such a happy place," she said. "This is such a symbol of the way things should be for these children."
In comments after the ceremony, Wetterling said the open house was gut-wrenching because of the dedication in honor of the two boys who never had a chance to realize their dreams. It was also an achievement by the Brainerd area.
Carlie Plantenberg studied a painting of Alex and Brandon Frank seconds after it was unveiled during the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center open house in Brainerd on Friday. Plantenberg is the daughter of Angie Borg, who also is Alex and Brandon's mother.
"It's about a community making children a priority," she said.
The balloons at the open house were the favorite colors of 5-year-old Alex (red) and 4-year-old Brandon (purple) Frank who were murdered in 1996 by their father, a non-custodial parent. The boys were living with their mother in Brainerd at the time. The parents were separated and engaged in a custody battle.
A painting of the two boys, each dressed in his favorite color shirt, was unveiled and will be displayed at the center.
Angie Borg, the boy's mother, expressed amazement that the dream of a safe place for non-custodial parental visits and child exchanges has resulted in the new building at 2602 Oak St. Louise Seliski, executive director of the Women's Center of Mid-Minnesota, said she hopes the safety center is up and running by July.
A tear welled up on the right side of Angie Borg's face as she wept during the playing of "The Rose" sung by Rep. Kris Hasskamp, DFL-Crosby at the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center open house in Brainerd on Friday. The center was named for Borg's sons, Alex and Brandon Frank, who were killed by their father in 1996. (Dispatch Photos by Clint Wood)
Seliski explained how Borg had mentioned that Patty Wetterling, who has spent years addressing the issues of safety for children, was one of her heroes.
In her short presentation, Wetterling turned the compliment back toward Borg.
"I don't deserve to be your hero," she said. "You've done such amazing things."
Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, both known as advocates for battered women and their families, praised the volunteers and the community for their efforts.
"There is a lot of pain and a lot of love and most of all a lot of spirit," Sen. Wellstone said. "This represents the goodness in people."
Sheila Wellstone spoke of the feelings that families would have when they enter the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center.
"Children and mothers are going to walk through the door and feel safe," she said. "You're saying to battered women 'We want our community to be a safe place for you.'"
The building will have kitchen facilities to teach parenting skills, intake rooms for interviews and separate play areas for younger and older children.
Representations of dinosaurs and tractors, two favorite items of Alex and Brandon, were also found in the house and in the center's playground.
No government funds were used for the construction. Major funding came from the McKnight, Bremer and Mardag foundations. Lakeland Mold and other area businesses and agencies also contributed a great deal, Seliski said.
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