During the month of November, NeW is encouraging its Chapters and Members to find ways to serve their neighbors and communities through their ConSERVative challenge. This week, we are highlighting Kaitlin Makuski, NeW intern and student at Hillsdale College, about how she is serving her community this month.
I go to school in a very rural county in Southern Michigan. Naturally, the amount of charitable and government provided services are few and far between, especially compared to suburban and rural areas. Things like homeless shelters, public transportation, food banks, emergency health clinics, and affordable child care are a just few examples of services that are difficult to find or get to. Another is help for domestic violence victims. Yes, there is the police and the national helpline, but these two alone cannot monitor every domestic violence case nor can they offer long-term assistance in order to help victims escape their situation and not return to their abuser. After all, it is statistically shown that it takes a minimum of seven times before a victim will successfully leave her abusive environment. Taking note of this, a group of people within the county came together in 1979 to establish Domestic Harmony, a service to provide emergency response and supportive services to victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
They started small: a local hotline victims could call to receive advice and possible referrals for shelter, three or so homes where women could stay for three days at most, and a team of volunteers ready to help in whatever way they can. Over the past 40 years, it has grown to become an established shelter in one of the larger towns in the county that can provide counseling services, legal advocates, and shelter for as many as 90 days. It has roughly ten permanent staff members, but just as it was when they first started, they are largely assisted by volunteers.
I volunteer there two to three times a week. Every time I go, I witness the love and compassion emanating from the workers for the women in the shelter and the community. The determination they have is incredible, because it is not just success stories. It is hard work, both physically and emotionally. You cannot save everyone that walks in the doors—not every woman walking in is walking in for that statistically proven “seventh time”. Many will return to their abusers, or to substance abuse, or simply cannot get their feet underneath them. You become witness to horror stories, the kind that you wish only existed in horror films and books. This job is not for the faint of heart. The people who manage and operate these shelters deserve our support—whether that’s organizing a few girls to help volunteer each week, setting up a food or clothing drive, or offering day care services, anything and everything can help. These organizations offer suffering women a chance at new life, at the American Dream, and that is something we can all get behind.