Safe Passage, the organization which assists victims of domestic violence in Izard and Fulton Counties, had lots to offer at its Nov. 29 bean dinner fundraiser, but diners were few.
"This is our first fundraiser in Fulton County, but there will be others," said Anna Martin, Fulton County Victim Services Coordinator. "It takes a while for people to know who we are."
Martin is confident local financial support will come, partly because, after a slow start, the office Safe Passage opened a year ago in Fulton County is giving her all the work she can handle.
"Anna's presence has made a difference," said Safe Passage Director Lorri Rorie. "Over the last year, there has been an extraordinary jump in the number of Orders of Protection being granted and the number of clients we are seeing."
Martin works out of office space donated by Salem First Baptist Church. She helps domestic violence victims obtain court Orders of Protection, counsels victims, refers them to Safe Passage's Izard County shelter when needed and helps victims meet other needs as they try to break away from a bad situation.
"We have established good relationships with police and sheriff departments and the Department of Human Resources," said Martin. "They call us now when they encounter people with domestic violence related problems."
Martin also hosts a Domestic Violence Support Group meeting each Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Highway 9 South at the Salem city limits.
"Abusers often isolate domestic violence victims from their families and friends," said Martin. "The support group allows victims to meet and talk, and realize they are not alone."
Martin also meets with area high school students to talk to them about the different types of domestic violence and how to avoid "learned behaviors" that can lead to someone becoming an abuser or a victim.
Despite a good year of work in Fulton County and six years of service in Izard County, Safe Passage is facing financial challenges.
Two grants it received in the past have run out, and fewer grant opportunities are available in this era of government cutbacks.
"We are still seeking grants and raising money through a thrift store in Melbourne, but we are having to depend more on donations and fundraisers," said Martin.
The organization has raised some funds by making presentations to area churches and organizations, often featuring domestic violence victims who have received Safe Passage help to tell their story.
"I heard a presentation at an AARP meeting at Horseshoe Bend and was really touched," said Ken Harper, Chairman of the Fulton County Hospital Foundation. "There's a great need for their services and I know they need funding help, so I proposed that the foundation consider making a donation."
Thanks to a unanimous vote of the hospital foundation board, Harper presented a $1,000 check to Safe Passage on Dec. 1.
"The foundation's goal is to raise money to meet community needs and I was very pleased the board was supportive of this organization," said Harper.
Martin feels support for Safe Passage will continue to grow in Fulton County, because so many families are being helped through its services.
From Oct. 2010 through Oct. 2011, Safe Passage assisted 160 women, 28 men and 196 children in Izard and Fulton Counties.
"There is a big need for services in Fulton County," Martin said. "We have a lot more domestic violence than people realize. The number of Orders of Protection being issued are proof of that."
For information on Safe Passage services or to make a tax deductible donation, call the Fulton County Safe Passage office at 870-373-3222.
The number for the Izard County office is 870-368-3236.