Shelter Celebrates 30 Years of Saving & Empowering Domestic Abuse Victims

The following was contributed by Dulcinea Cuellar, Director of Public Relations at The Salvation Army Florida Divisional Headquarters

Elizabeth fled from an abusive boyfriend twice. Both times she was welcomed into the warm embrace of The Salvation Army.

Melynda knew she was in trouble when she was hit so hard she temporarily lost eye sight. She still wears an eye patch and is unsure if she will ever see clearly in her left eye.

For three decades, Pasco county survivors have sought refuge at The Salvation Army’s domestic violence shelter. They have participated in its six week program and given the tools they need to stop the abuse.

Since it opened its doors in 1982, The Salvation Army’s domestic violence shelter has helped more than 10,000 women, children and men change their lives. It has empowered, protected and guided them through their challenges and given them hope that their lives will get better.

As one of Florida’s longest-running domestic violence shelters, the 32 bed facility is a 24-hour shelter for Pasco county residents who are fleeing their abuser. In 2011 alone, the shelter served 193 women and 178 children and received 2,388 calls to its hotline.

For women like Elizabeth, The Salvation Army shelter was a safe-haven for her and her six children.

Elizabeth stayed at the shelter twice, once in summer 2010 and another in fall 2011, both times fleeing her now ex-boyfriend.

“When I came here I felt like I was part of their family,” she recalled. “They gave me support, resources and just listened.”

Elizabeth is now out of the shelter and is six hours away from receiving her nursing degree.

“I don’t know what I would have done without this place – this light,” she said. “The women who work here are called to do this and they help people like me take the same away.”

Melynda’s road to recovery is just beginning.

Her month-long stay at the shelter is filled with court, doctor and counseling appointments. She came to shelter in the spring after being released from a local hospital. In the winter, her ex-boyfriend pushed her to the ground and she banged her head on the ceramic tile. She woke up in a pool blood. He then started beating her.

“I could only see the blurry of an open door,” she said. “So I ran as fast I could out of there. I know he would have killed me.”

When asked about her eye she calmly said, “It could be worse. I am alive.”

Melynda heard about The Salvation Army’s domestic violence program while recovering from the attack.

“There are so few places people can go to get this help,” she said. “I am so grateful.”

On Friday, March 30, the shelter will mark the anniversary with a dinner and silent auction. The auction will showcase residents’ art therapy.

Tickets for the event are $50 a person or two for $90. Tiffany Carr, Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence president and CEO, will speak at the event. The event will be at The Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey.  Reservations can be made by calling (727) 856-6498.

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