Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lend a helping hand

We were recently made aware of a local organization that needs our help. Shelter House, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization serving the survivors of domestic violence and their children throughout Okaloosa and Walton counties. Shelter House is currently in dire need of supplies and donations. If you feel inclined to help, please read the letter below from the director of the organization or go here to donate.

Dear supporters,

I am writing to you in the middle of the month because of the increase in services we are experiencing with our emergency shelter. As many of you know, we operate a 24 bed shelter. As I write this, we have 22 women and children in our shelter. Our youngest resident is four months old and our oldest resident is 44 years old. The number of women and children who have been staying with us over the past few months is startling. Since July, we have been consistently full or near capacity. We are working with women that are struggling to overcome enormous barriers.

Melissa* came into Shelter after living in her car for two weeks. She escaped her abuser and came to Fort Walton Beach for a new start. She was terrified to trust anyone and didn't think anyone would believe what had happened to her. Melissa was given our hotline number and called us almost nightly until she formed a relationship with our advocates and trusted us enough to come to Shelter. Since staying with us, Melissa has begun to talk more openly about the physical and emotional abuse that she endured at the hands of her abuser and his friends. She is starting to put the pieces of her life back together.

Another woman, Charlotte*, came to us in the middle of the night after being physically assaulted by her husband. She waited until she thought he was asleep and she snuck out of the window with her two-year-old and nine-month-old children. We picked her up in the middle of the night with just the clothes on her back and a small bag packed full of items for her children. She told us she had a horrible feeling that if she stayed that night he was going to kill her. With the help of law enforcement, she went back home the next morning to retrieve many of her and her children's belongings. We are working with Charlotte so she can relocate to another domestic violence shelter in a city where she has family members.

Then there is one other resident, a 10-year-old girl who told our Shelter Manager that this is the nicest and safest place she has ever lived. The situations are heartbreaking and these are just a few of the women we work with on a daily basis within our agency. These stories represent the real need for our services.

Because we are serving so many women and children, we are running low on our basic supplies. I am asking you to support our battered women and children by going shopping this weekend and purchasing the items we currently need. We are running extremely low on toilet paper, laundry detergent, paper towels, kitchen garbage bags, new or gently used bath towels (large ones), diapers (sizes 5 and 6), milk, cheese and meats (chicken, beef, pork). We are also seeking monetary donations or gift cards so we can purchase these items. You can also donate now by clicking here.

Our Fort Walton Beach (102 Buck Drive) and Santa Rosa Beach (78 Lynn Drive) offices will be open 8:00 am on Monday to accept your donations. Thank you for all you do for battered women and children in our community.


Michelle Sperzel, Executive Director

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our participants