A donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has given a new facility to the Family Peace Project that allows the program to help more people, director Marlena Taylor said.

The new facility houses inventory to help victims, offices and two bedrooms — all of which aid in the organization’s effort to help families and individuals involved in domestic violence, the director said.

The donor also pays the monthly utility bills for the new facility, allowing money raised from events like their recent Waffle Breakfast, to go directly into helping clients, Taylor said.

She said in the past the organization ran out of the back of cars or her house and they never had any real offices.

The group assists victims by providing counseling, a safe place to stay and financial help for victims while they rebuild their life, Taylor said.

Volunteer Renita Harris works with victims to give them someone to listen, “I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, or to tell them what to do, I just listen and let them know there is help if they want it,” she said.

According to the Family Peace Project pamphlet, at least one woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States.

However, Harris and Taylor want people to understand that is not the only form of domestic abuse.

“It is about control and once they (abusers) get your mind, they have you,” Harris said.

Harris, once a victim of abuse herself, said she is just glad there is a place like the Peace Project for people to go. She said there were not options like this for her.

Taylor said Harris has worked with the project since 2002, when she first came to work there for a community service obligation.

“I was involved in domestic violence that resulted in a killing, I was incarcerated and now I help people to get out of bad situations,” Harris said.

“Family violence is about power control,” Taylor said as she explained that abuse is not always about bruises and broken bones.

“Physical abuse is only a part,” she said.

Abuse may consist of something as simple as a women not having a driver’s license, which makes her completely dependent on her partner to go anywhere, even the grocery store, the center director said.

These women often do not have a job and are isolated from friends and family, Harris said.

“They often do not trust anyone so the fact they are willing to turn to a stranger makes the our situation more important, that’s why I try and make them as comfortable as possible,” she said.

“Many women do tell us that they come here and get such a good night’s sleep because they are safe here, we have locks on the doors and an alarm system, often they do not realize how stressed they are until they come here and step away from everything,” Harris said.

The project has a safe house they also use to protect families while they try to build their lives, Taylor said.

She said the house was donated, redone by community programs and then relocated to private property.

“Twelve families have lived in the house since we finished it and it is a special place, Renita was actually the first person to live there,” Taylor said.

Churches from around the community help stock the safe house and furnish families with food and other needs, she said.

The director said they help victims with; food, clothes, toiletries, gas money when they get a job, daycare, a place to live, medicine and even can help direct them to get legal help with retraining orders, if necessary.

“Dental care is hard to come by for people though, because sometimes women will be missing teeth from getting punched — they need dental work to help get a job,” Harris said.

Currently the project has enough clothing items due to the Hurricane Katrina overflow, Taylor said, but they need household items including furniture, cleaning supplies, appliances and also pantry items — especially items that can be packed in school lunches.

Occasionally, the project puts families in motels if the safe house is full. Also, when men come in for help, the organization will house them in motels because they only have facilities for women at their safe house, the director said.

During these times the project provides food that can be eaten in motel rooms, so the client remains safe, Taylor said.

According to the organization’s pamphlet, “Family violence is a major contributing factor to other problems including child abuse, female alcoholism, homelessness, crime, mental illness, attempted suicide and unemployment.”

The director said, with all the project undertakes, this office answered their biggest need, but now they are looking to the future and hoping to rent billboards around the area.

“We can reach more people that way and let them know there is a place that will help them,” Taylor said.

Taylor said anyone involved in a violent situation should call 911 and anyone needing help can call the center at 903-677-9177 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.

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e-mail ccampbell@athensreview.com

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