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'It looks like a home'

Nancy Kastelic, right, president of the Hermantown Chamber of Commerce, presents a plaque to Maude Dornfeld, executive director of Life House. (Photos by Naomi Yaeger)1 / 3
Julie Flint, left, a mental health counselor at Life House, visits with Megan Sandman, mother of Annabelle, 2, Koleton, 4, and Envais, 5. Sandman said she was at the opening to support her mother, Babette Sandman, a Life House mental health counselor.2 / 3
Dawn Johnson looks at the artwork hanging on the walls at Life House. The art placed in shadow boxes is part of a class called "What is Love?" for teens who have experienced abusive relationships.3 / 3

Life House showed off its new look Oct. 21.

The agency, located at 102 W. First St., serves homeless and at-risk youth. They held a ribbon cutting and open house on Tuesday afternoon. Executive director Maude Dornfeld said that renovations included new signs, a new reception area and intake office that doubles as a quiet room, a security system including cameras inside and out, new flooring, a renovated kitchen and all-new furniture.

"This place needs a facelift," said Shannon Hoffman, the new development director, recalling her impression when she interviewed for her job in May. "Now it feels like a home."

"They seem to like it,' she said of the youths' reaction to the renovation. "It makes them feel important, like they are worth it."

Renovation and new furniture aren't necessarily what makes this home-like alternative a home. "The staff is what makes it," Dornfeld said.

Megan Sandman was at the open house to show support for her mother, Babette Sandman, a mental health counselor at the agency.

"I grew up in Duluth and it's fun to watch how Life House has progressed," said Megan.

The renovations were financed through public and private funds.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at