October 20, 2017 12:09:08 PM
This week, Safe Haven was selected as one of the 150 domestic violence shelters in the U.S. and its territories to receive a $20,000 grant from the Mary Kay Foundation, which the cosmetics company awards each year during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
And while it's not the first time the Columbus non-profit has been chosen for the grant -- Safe Haven was awarded $20,000 grants in both 2008 and 2014 -- this year, the money could not have come at a better time.
The local non-profit organization that provides emergency shelter and crisis intervention for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault has seen a decrease in local funding over the past couple of years even as the demand for its services sadly continues to increase.
Safe Haven executive director Joyce Tucker rattled off the sobering numbers.
"In 2016, we had 749 crisis intervention and referral calls," she said. "Forty-nine women and 40 children were provided emergency shelter, which amounted to 1,051 (occupied beds) and 3,153 meals."
Safe Haven also arranged 127 counseling sessions and provided transportation 228 times and childcare 150 times.
For Tucker and her staff, the demand for services has been a challenge financially for the organization, which is funded by local, state and federal grants as well as private donations.
Local grants have fallen in the past two years. Funding from United Way of Lowndes County fell from $8,000 to $6,000 last year while United Way of Clay County has cut its grants to Safe Haven by 50 percent -- from $6,300 in 2015 to $3,150 for each of the past two years.
"Most of our financial difficulties over the past two years have come from a drop in local funding," Tucker said. "And because we use local grant money as matching funds for federal grants, the impact of those cuts go beyond just those numbers."
The Mary Kay grant does more than simply help make up for the dip in local funding. Because it comes with no restrictions, Safe Haven can use the money for normal operations too.
"That's important because a lot of the state and federal grant money we receive is given to (us) as reimbursement," Tucker said. "Sometimes it can be months before we get those reimbursements, so having the Mary Kay grant money available to us as we need it means that we don't run the risk of an interruption to our regular services."
The demand for Mary Kay grants continue to increase, a reflection of the need in communities all over the country, said Anne Crews, a board member of the Mary Kay Foundation.
"More than 700 domestic violence shelters nationwide applied for The Mary Kay Foundation shelter grants this year, which demonstrates the overwhelming need to maintain critical services and provide a safe haven for the survivors of an epidemic that impacts one in every four women," Crews said. "Working to prevent an end to domestic violence is a cornerstone of The Foundation, Mary Kay Inc. and for countless members of our independent sales force.
"Since 2000, The Foundation has invested tens of millions of dollars in our shelter grant program and without a doubt, we know these funds make a difference in homes and communities across the country," she added.
For Tucker, being on the receiving end of a Mary Kay Foundation grant again was a godsend.
"We are incredibly grateful for support from The Mary Kay Foundation and its continued commitment to break the cycle of domestic violence," she said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
2. Starkville Sports Center closing STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
3. Town hall discussions focus on school funding COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Officials: CFO Rawle's suspension delayed until at least January COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Heritage students pen 1,725 cards to soldiers COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY