From a young age, Colin Luz has had a passion for philanthropy, a mind for business and the will to combine the two.
Two years after starting Coulee Region Movers in 2014, Luz’s latest endeavor, Move to End Domestic Violence, has come to fruition. The service has helped a dozen women relocate to safe housing since it partnered with New Horizons in April.
The 25-year-old Viterbo University graduate recognized the need for the partnership after his company received several frantic calls from women needing to vacate their homes immediately. After showing up to the jobs and finding police on the scene, he realized the kind of situations they were dealing with.
Luz reached out to Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers in California, and Kim Jones, the transitional housing advocate for New Horizons. Steed, whose company offers free services to domestic violence victims, offered Luz advice on starting a similar program in La Crosse. Jones confirmed the need for a local service: New Horizons was relocating a victim a week.
Coulee Region Movers is currently the only company in Wisconsin to offer completely free moving assistance to domestic violence victims. Luz’s team of eight employees will move women to homes or shelters within a 15-mile radius of La Crosse.
“Hiring a moving company is expensive, and getting away from the violence is often the hardest part,” Luz said. “If they can start a new life, get a new job, it will help keep them out of poverty.”
Luz and his sales and marketing coordinator, Anna Ostrowski, have met with other businesses in the local BNI networking and referral program about offering their services as well. Olsten Staffing, Shenanigans and Pursuit Personal Training are finalizing plans to join the program.
Olsten plans to donate an online skill building program to increase job marketability and the assistance of a recruiter. Pursuit Personal Training will give self-defense classes, and Shenanigans will offer a day of free play time to a family each month. Luz asks companies to go through a screening to ensure they are participating to help the victims and not to promote their business.
“We can only do so much, moving people from point A to point B,” Luz said. “We want others to get involved.”
Luz says some companies can be hesitant.
“Domestic violence can be a touchy subject,” he said. “Some people think its none of their business.”
“We want to partner with services that provide value,” Ostrowski added. “Victims can feel stuck, and its important for them to know there is help out there and businesses that will offer them assistance. Everyone deserves happiness.”
Luz says providing the service helps open up the eyes of his employees, who sign confidentiality agreements.
“When they see what people have to go through, hopefully it makes them appreciate what they have,” he said. “I have a lot of college guys who are bigger football players. Sometimes the victims are intimidated and hesitant toward men, so you don’t always get the reaction you might expect. But you can tell they appreciate it.”
Luz says the staff at New Horizons is “thrilled” with the moving service, as well as the donations of furniture left over from past moves and college student cast-offs collected during a pick-up in May.
“We’ve already filled up the shed at New Horizons,” Luz said. “Even if you’re not a business owner, you can give old furniture or light bulbs, home supplies. Things they can put in the home to make it a home.”
The opportunity to be involved with Move to End Domestic Violence “means a lot to me,” Ostrowski said. “As a college student, I’m focusing on school and work. If I wasn’t working here, I wouldn’t be aware of the things going on in the community. One person can make a difference.”