Could you spare a quarter today? How about tomorrow? Most of us wouldn’t miss a quarter every day but it could have a life-changing effect for one local non-profit organization. Shepherd’s House is in dire need of a larger, more efficient shelter and is asking people to help them save for a shelter with just 25 cents a day.
Shepherd’s House is a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter and advocacy center in Vinton County. The organization began helping clients in 1999, initially offering advocacy services and growing to include an emergency shelter.
Statistics say that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. More than three million children will witness domestic violence in their homes this year. Surprisingly, one in seven men will be a victim of abuse. So while the shelter is available only to women and children, Shepherd’s House provides non-shelter assistance to men as well. Sands said the shock waves caused by this violence will echo far beyond the household of an abuser.
“These victims are our neighbors, our sisters and daughters. They’re our mothers. You wouldn’t believe the amount of elderly who are abused by grown children. Victims are many times the bullies who are hurting your children. They’re kids who often grow up to be abusers and they’re in the pool of people your children will be choosing friends and spouses from. You may not know it but domestic violence affects us all,” she warned.
Shepherd’s House has binders filled with the names of hundreds of known abusers in Vinton County – men, women and juveniles – a testament to the need for a larger shelter and more services in this community.
When a victim comes in, the staff works to assess their needs and offer whatever services are necessary “We give them time to calm down and realize what’s happened so they can make decisions. We guide them through the system and explain the services available to them. We explain legal terms and sit with them in the courtroom. We help them with emergency plans and talk to them about staying safe. We offer peer support in a safe, judgment free zone,” Sands explained. “The judicial system isn’t always fair in the eyes of the victims and we have to make it as least traumatic as possible for the client.”
While cozy and welcoming on the inside, the current shelter is simply too small to meet the demand. With cramped office space and small living quarters for just one family at a time, the organization needs a larger home to grow in.
“Our dream is to never have to turn someone away because of space. Our dream is to have enough employees to not have staff overworked and exhausted. The dream is to someday have transitional housing units for domestic violence victims so that they can have a few months to get on their feet. But right now the need is to just have three or four bedrooms with space for a little office,” Sands concluded.
Sands pointed out that this fundraiser is a great project for families with children. “I know a year is a long time but if people would teach their kids to help others, to every day spend five seconds thinking about someone else, that habit becomes an asset. These children will grow up to be more caring adults and their contribution will mean the world to us,” she said.
She admits that there is still a stigma associated with domestic violence. “People think that it can’t be that bad or she would leave. They think if she really wanted out she would just go. They think it’s not their business. But it isn’t that easy. You have no idea how hard it is, how devastating it is until you’re in that kind of danger. If you’ve never had someone threaten you or your children or even your family pet, you just don’t know how hard it is to escape,” she lamented.
Once victims do escape, they face an uphill battle with the logistics of daily life including employment, child care, acquiring the things they need, often with little or no credit of their own. They typically face the most basic struggle of simply keeping their children safe from their abuser and a roof over their heads, according to Sands. “It’s hard to believe but for some, it seems better to stay than to leave. That’s how little hope they have.”
When we heard about the quarter challenge, many of us here at VCNB felt compelled to help. That’s why we have placed large jars in the lunchrooms of our two McArthur offices, inviting employees to drop in a quarter a day or whatever they can spare. To kick off the campaign, the bank donated $365, the equivalent of four people doing the quarter challenge.
Sands said that they have already received donations from a few individuals who are skipping the quarter challenge and giving the equivalent now. Either way is fine with Sands and the organization’s Board of Directors. Checks for Shepherd’s House can be sent to P.O. Box 550, McArthur, Ohio 45651.