The county’s sole domestic violence shelter was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from The Mary Kay Foundation.
The unrestricted grant is a welcome addition to the operating budget of the Genesis House, said Executive Director Virginia Beckman, especially in the midst of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Beckman likens the shelter’s funding sources as a “mosaic quilt, which is a good example of why we need this grant.” Among its many public and private sources, two of its main funding streams are federal grants that reimburse the agency after its initial expenditures.
But with the shutdown, those accounts are frozen.
“There are some shelters considering closing their doors right now,” Beckman said. “Grants like this are what gets us through these tough times.”
Beckman estimates that the grants, which were awarded nationwide, were highly competitive. About 80 shelters in the state applied for only a handful of available grants.
“It is a big honor, a big deal,” she said. “It is highly coveted.”
While the shelter has seen a steady increase in recent years of those seeking help, funding hasn’t increased to match the needs. Beckman said in her 6ﾽ years leading the shelter, she has seen a triplefold increase in shelter nights, counted by how many people are housed each night.
Last year, 1,975 nights of shelter were provided and 4,480 calls came into the crisis hotline. The shelter provides outreach programs such as prevention, education, legal advocacy or aftercare. In 2018, almost 50,000 were reached through community outreach.
An average stay is just less than 30 days, but can vary greatly from client to client. Some families may take a few months to rehouse because an abusive partner has run up unpaid utility bills in the victim’s name, and it takes some time to be able to set up new housing, she said. Others find themselves far from home and supportive networks and escape abuse but just want assistance to return to their hometown and leave Lorain County.
The shelter is planning an “inspirational, big-check” presentation during its biggest fundraiser, the 10th annual Pajama Party on Thursday.
Beckman said the party is designed to be casual, fun and accessible rather than a high-ticket charity event.
“It is special to my heart because the women’s domestic violence movement sort of started at pajama parties. Women would get together and talk about what they saw, and who was bruised, and what they could do about it. So it’s a return to our roots and a celebration of where we are,” she said.
“The other part of this work is that we get to see the most amazing resilience that exists among humankind. To see people literally pick themselves up off the ground and turn it around and make it work after the most horrible things, it’s really inspiring,” she said.
The Pajama Party begins at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Emerald Event Center, 33040 Just Imagine Drive, Avon. Most attendees do wear pajamas, although it’s not mandatory, Beckman said. Tickets are $30 and are available at the door. For information on the Genesis House, visit genesishouseshelter.org or call its hotline at (440) 244-1853.