Weld County covers a sprawling area with an estimated 178,000 people. But resources for victims of domestic violence are few, and that’s part of what makes A Woman’s Place so crucial for many in Weld County. The Greeley non-profit has a safe-house for survivors of domestic violence and offers them a range of services to help them cope and heal.
This year, A Woman’s Place launched an expanded community outreach effort, and as a result the number of women and children seeking shelter is soaring. But because providing more help also means higher bills, the organization’s need is greater than ever, says A Woman’s Place director Ellen Szabo.
In August, the non-profit provided 485 nights of shelter to 21 clients, Szabo says. The shelter was forced to turn away 29 women and children, more than were turned away during the years of 2005 and 2006 combined.
“It’s a very discouraging statistic,” Szabo says. “But to me it demonstrates how much our services are needed in Weld County.”
continued…Supporters of A Woman’s Place have always realized the importance of its services. Members of the community founded the organization in 1977 and first opened the safe-house in 1981. Renovations doubled its space in 2003.
This community has always been very supportive of A Woman’s Place,” Szabo says. “We have a core group of people, some of whom were founders, who are really dedicated.”
The fund-raising arm of the organization, called Friends of a Woman’s Place, raises a significant amount of the budget through a yearly gala. This year’s will be Oct 12.
“They raised 80,000 last year, and this year we hope they’ll raise even more,” Szabo says. “Every single penny that they raise goes directly to our agency.”
The board of A Woman’s Place will hold another fund-raiser Nov. 14. The event, dubbed “Cheers,” will feature a wine tasting and a raffle.
“Our community has been amazing,” Szabo says. Besides participating in fund-raisers, Weld County residents and businesses have donated piles of groceries, towels and other household necessities.
“Our grocery and household item costs just went through the roof,” Szabo says. “We have been asking for donations of food and have been receiving them.”
But the budget of A Woman’s Place goes toward more than providing shelter to victims of domestic violence. A 24-hour crisis service is available with translation in 150 languages. The organization offers support groups and educational programs for women and children as well as legal aid.
Because Weld County residents have to come to the Greeley courthouse for things such as restraining orders, A Woman’s Place now has a lawyer in the courthouse on Mondays to provide free legal aid to domestic violence victims.
Szabo says the number of legal advocacy cases this year has already surpassed the total for 2006.
“It’s a challenge for us to keep up financially, and we are always looking for professionals to donate their services, especially lawyers,” she says.
Along with a dedicated staff, volunteers and donors really keep A Woman’s Place running, Szabo says.
And as the only organization in the area dedicated to domestic violence victims, its survival and success is critical to Weld County.