Volunteers are the lifeblood of any organization and the Safe House for Women is fortunate to have a committed group who love serving at the Thrift Store and other events. A sense of camaraderie, serving the community and supporting the Safe House's cause to help victims of domestic and sexual violence and build safe communities are important reasons why volunteers have become invaluable to the organization.
"This really makes you feel good," said Erna Phillips. Phillips has helped at the store for over two years. "There are nice bosses here, it doesn't cost a thing and there's the satisfaction of doing something good for someone."
Melba Dewrock has volunteered for over five years. She said she enjoys the friendships that grow from helping, "I love meeting a lot new people and spending time with friends."
June Campbell said making friends has been a benefit of helping the Safe House along with supporting the cause. She said, "THis is a good cause. There are a lot of good people here, I've made a lot of good friends and it gives you a sense of accomplishment."
Leslie McHughes said she enjoys both the camaraderie of volunteering and supporting the Safe House's cause. She said, "I love helping, I'm a people person, and I enjoy doing a variety of things and I know this is for a good cause and I am just amazed."
McHughes called the Safe House Thrift Store, "my favorite place." She said, "I came in shopping one day and saw they needed volunteers and I asked Liz about it and I started helping."
In fiscal year 2015, the thrift store received 5,702 hours of service from 57 volunteers. This helped the Safe House clients redeem $7,074.00 worth of vouchers for clothing, household items and other needs they may not have been able to meet otherwise.
The Safe House's volunteers reflect the generosity of the community.
"I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the people," said volunteer Lester Wells. "It is unbelievable and fantastic that there are so many people helping us. THere are a lot of other places in the community they could support and people still come to us."
Wells has volunteered for over four years. "I love it," he said. "You meet a lot of nice people and you get the sense you're doing something good for the community."
Susan Ellrod said volunteering is, "spending time in a worthwhile way to help those less fortunate."
Ellrod has volunteered since the store opened. She said she began mopping and helps out where she is needed. "The cause can use all the help it can get and I'm hopeful the store adds a lot to that."
Ellrod also enjoyed helping the Safe House by eating at the Taco Tuesday fundraiser.
Rose Quinn said she also enjoys serving the Thrift Store customers. She said, "I love going through the trendy clothes to find bargains and it is a pleasure to help customers find deals."
The Safe House relies on the support of the volunteers in everyday matters and in events. Volunteer opportunities are available to help with Project Homeless Connect on Oct. 7, Vintage NOW 7 on Oct. 22 and more.
For more information, call 573-335-7745 or click the volunteer tab on the site.
National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Victims' Ceremony--April 13, 2016
Described by an attendee as "comforting," the 13th annual Victims' Ceremony at Cape Girardeau County Park North was held for families, law enforcement, survivors, friends and more to remember and honor those affected by crime.
"Being a victim puts you in a difficult place in life," said Beth Garoutte, victim advocate for Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Garoutte also served as an event coordinator with Officer Kim Moore of Probation and Parole.
"If you are a resident, you are a victim of crime," said Moore. "Every time there is a drug transaction, the state of Missouri is listed as the victim."
Jessica Hill, Safe House for Women executive director and Frank Miller, assistant prosecuting attorney served as keynote speakers.
According to Miller, compassion and concern for others' well being are important to remember throughout proceedings. He said, even if the crime a victim suffered is not considered severe, "it can still be the worst thing that ever happened to that person, and we need to remember that."
Miller praised the work of Safe House court advocate Becky Holloway, to serve victims by helping them navigate the legal system, file paper work, sit in court with victims and provide them with a voice in confusing and stressful situations.
According to the Bureau of Justice, in 2014 there were about 3 million victims of violent crime. Miller said if that number were projected into Cape Girardeau County, it would effect about 825 individuals.
"What are we doing to help?" asked Miller. He said his office works to hold criminals accountable and "remember compassion and care for the suffering of others. Families are also victims and victims can struggle through proceedings and feel like they are falling through the cracks."
Miller said it is important to work with community agencies that serve victims like the Safe House, Beacon Health and Voices for Children.
"We are blessed that these agencies provide escape for victims and are doing the Lord's work."
Hill stated the importance of what the Safe House, cooperating agencies and law enforcement do to serve victims, build trust and restore hope. Hill said in 2015 fiscal year, nearly 200 women and children were housed in the Safe House' shelter and nearly 300 received services from the outreach office. She recognized the "dedicated staff and community" efforts to keep victims safe. Hill said the Safe House also provides prevention education to teach students about healthy relationships at an early age.
"We believe crime is preventable and everyone deserves respect and safety," said Hill.
Hill gave a recap of the weeks events and goals. According to her the goals for National Crime Victims' Rights Week were threefold: to let victims know they are not forgotten, build connections among cooperating agencies and reach out to the community to raise awareness.
"There are victims all around us," said Hill. "There are many seen and unseen victims that include loved ones, friends, law enforcement and service providers."
Hill said the theme of week was to serve victims, build trust and restore hope.
"Victims are not alone," Hill said. "There are people out there who care."
Hill quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that will overwhelm the world."
Attendees were encouraged to take a flower, share their stories and sign the banner in honor of someone they knew who was a victim of crime.
"We are not forgotten. We know people care," said an attendee.
For more information on the partner agencies, go to http://semosafehouse.org, http://facebook.com/cape.casa and http://beaconhealthcenter.com
National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Task Force Meeting--April 12, 2016
Sharae Honeycutt shared her story about the importance of advocacy on behalf of Voices for Children, for National Crime Victims Rights Week task force meeting.
"Empowerment is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone," said Honeycutt. "You give them love, strength and freedom."
Honeycutt is a reporter for KFVS12 and volunteers with Voices for Children as an advocate.
"At 16, I ran away from a foster home," said Honeycutt. She added that was a difficult thing to say.
Honeycutt said her mother had bi-polar disorder and she was afraid she would end up with the same fate. Her father had primary custody of her, and she said while he was never abusive, like most teenagers, the two did not get along.
She described herself as, "mad at the world," when she went into foster care at age 14. She said she was, "scared and hopeless that she would get sick too."
According to Honeycutt, she saw school as pointless. Even though her teachers said "she had excellent potential," she did not put forth the effort because it would all be for nothing because she believed she was fated for the same sickness as her mother. Honeycutt described her two years in foster care as "chaos." She lived in two counties, six placements including two group homes and was enrolled in six high schools.
Honeycutt also pointed out some good experiences while in foster care such as getting to live with different people of different cultures. She encountered families who genuinely cared for their foster kids and wanted to do as much good as they can and others who did it for financial reasons. Honeycutt said she left foster care at age 16 and ended up in an abusive relationship.
"It took me four years to realize that I deserved better," she said. Honeycutt described a time she locked herself in a bathroom, sat on the floor and said to herself, "This is not my life. I do not want be a casualty of my mother's illness."
She said "I don't know what my life is. Being moved wasn't who I was. I wanted to succeed."
Honeycutt said the importance of advocacy for children in foster care is to give children support who may never get any. She said she did not have an advocate while she was in foster care, but learned to be her own advocate. Children need advocates to "interject themselves into the lives of children who need it."
"No one had my back," she said. "I was angry, lonely, sad and beyond hope."
According to her there were a lot of people in her life that "served a purpose, and were trying to manage the situation, but no one was looking out for the single best interest for me."
Honeycutt said she pulled herself up and said, "This is my life and its worth fighting for."
Honeycutt said she made up with her father, "Dads love their kids unconditionally."
She earned her GED at 20 and worked in coffee shops and as a recruiter. Honeycutt said she realized at age 25 she was never going to be bipolar, "you are not like your mother."
Honeycutt finished at San Francisco State University at age 30 with a degree in broadcasting. She worked an internship with the NBC Nightly News and Today Show and worked with Maria Shriver. She said she is "truly blessed" to get the life she lives.
"There are thousands of kids that need that fresh start," she said. "A child does not get to choose the situations in their life and they need adults to guide them so they are happy, healthy, and know they are loved and supported."
Linda Nash, director of Voices for Children, said the agency is looking to take on more volunteers.
"Some kids may not have anyone else and there are opportunities to develop a strong rapport," said Nash. "Advocacy is an important way to serve victims who are unable to serve themselves. There are a variety of children who don't have anyone to speak for them."
Honeycutt described her experience as an advocate as, "worth it," and encouraged attendees to become advocates, "Kids don't chose how their lives start and we need adults to help us make good choices and guide us."
For more information on Voices for Children, go to https://www.facebook.com/Cape.CASA/
National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Kickoff Breakfast--April 11, 2016
Over 80 advocates, service providers, caregivers, law enforcement officers and more attended the National Crime Victims' Rights Week Kick-Off Breakfast at the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus in Cape Girardeau. The Safe House for Women earned a grant from the Department of Justice and partnered with Voices for Children and Beacon Health Center to host a week of community awareness events. Breakfast was provided by the Office of Addictions Research, Department of Nursing at Southeast Missouri State University.
Safe House Executive Director Jessica Hill said the purpose of the week was threefold: to honor victims and reinforce to them that they are not forgotten, to build connections between the service agencies in the community and to raise awareness among the general public. The theme for the week is Serving Victims, Building Trust and Restoring Hope.
Chief Wes Blair of the Cape Girardeau Police Department gave the keynote address. He said if one were to ask ten different people about the meaning of justice, one would receive ten different answers. However, if one asked a victim of crime for the definition of justice, he said the definition would include being treated with respect, being listened to and having a voice for important decisions. Blair said crime has multiple victims in addition to those directly acted upon.
Blair told the story of Yolanda Reynolds, a 2003 case he worked on while he was an investigator in Texas. Reynolds was killed in her own home with her eight-year-old and five-year-old sons witnessing the event. Her family was not given an adequate voice, and prosecutors did not believe they had enough evidence, so the suspect was not brought to trial.
Blair said the victims in Reynolds' case included her sons who lost their mother, her mother who ended up taking care of the children, her friends and family, society as a whole and those who worked on the case.
"We care more about the suspects than the victims," said Blair. "We need to be a voice. Creating victims out of offenders is wrong and disgraceful."
Blair also serves on the boards for the Safe House and Beacon. Interim Director John Gary and Jana Weine spoke on behalf of Beacon.
Beacon Health Center serves victims of sexual violence by performing forensic interviews, providing advocacy, offering counseling and more. According to Weine, Beacon conducts on average 600 forensic interviews a year, 1000 counseling sessions and reaches 10,000 students with the Green Bear prevention program.
Voices for Children was formerly known as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). According to director Linda Nash, Voices for Children speaks for children when no one else is able. Nash said their mission is to recruit, screen and train volunteers to serve children, facilitate delivery of services and advocate to family support teams, judges and wherever needed. Nash said there are 350 area children in need of service and Voices for Children serves around 77 a year, with the need increasing.
"Family has always been the bulwark of the society," Nash said. "This not only helps the child but generations down the line."
Other events for the week include Task Force Meeting at Dexter Bar-B-Que tomorrow and the Victims Rights Ceremony on Wednesday.
For more information on the week, http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/index.html
Beautiful You 2016--April 8, 2016
Described by an attendee as, "an unforgettable night out," the 2016 Beautiful You banquet allowed Safe House clients to enjoy an evening of fun, pampering, food, service and more.
Evangelical United Church of Christ served as host and provided a fried chicken dinner with all the fixings. Clients were able to receive massages; get their hair, nails and make up done and have their pictures taken. Donations of professional clothing, purses, personal hygiene items, shoes, jewelry were given to each attendee. Guests also enjoyed singing kareoke.
Beautiful You celebrates the inherent beauty and dignity of the Safe House's clients and helps realize their true beauty and worth.
Special thanks to all the donors, volunteers, staff and attendees that made Beautiful You a success. Donations are being accepted for next year's event and for more information, please --