Scottdale organization offers helpo to victims of domestic, sexual violence
Women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence have a new place to turn to for help and support.
Strong Hands Inc. opened its doors this week at 502 Market St. in Scottdale. The mission of new organization is to help prevent victims of sexual and domestic violence and empower the survivors.
“We live by God's word. We are here for hope to give these people in need that they can get out of a bad situation,” said Director Shannon Bibby.
President Terri Ward of Ruffsdale said she was working as an insurance broker for healthcare last summer when she was divinely inspired to open the center.
“God told me to do it and once I got the idea in my head it kind of took on a persona of its own. It's never something that I thought I would do but once I decided to do it, help started coming from everywhere,” Ward said.
She said she was very fortunate to be mentored by Marcie Elsbury who runs Mantle House Missions in West Newton.
“She mentored and prayed for me an awful lot,” Ward said.
Ward enlisted the help of her friend Amity Kramer of Mt. Pleasant, to join her mission. Kramer is now the organizations Vice President.
“It's amazing to me the stories that have come out and the number of people I know that have experienced this,” Kramer said.
Bibby of Ruffsdale said that domestic and sexual violence is more prevalent than most people think and it is part of the group's mission to educate people about these issues.
“What we want to do is bring awareness because it can be happening right in your backyard,” Bibby said. “We are willing to go speak at local organizations to help get the word out.”
The organization offers complete anonymity to those seeking counseling, advocacy, safety planning and attending support groups.
Ward said while Strong Hands is located in a house which was the old parsonage of the Scottdale Church of the Nazarene, it is not a shelter but Strong Hands would someday like to be able to offer those services as well.
The house currently has been set up with donated furniture to provide an office for counseling and the living room area has been set up as a comfortable spot for support group meetings.
Ward said the upstairs of the house is currently being utilized to store household items that will be given to those who must leave their home due to a violent situation and set up a new one.
“Usually, if a woman flees her home they leave with only the clothes on her back and the clothes on her children's backs and we have pots and pans and other household items that we can give them to help them set up a new household,” Ward said.
Ward is a certified councilor and she said the organization currently has four volunteers on staff who have completed 80 hours of training to qualify them to work with victims. The organization is looking for more volunteers that are willing to go through the training.
While most victims of domestic and sexual violence are women there are men who suffer from abuse as well. Ward said Strong Hands also is looking for male volunteers to go through the training so there is someone with whom the male victims will be more comfortable.
The group also needs volunteers to help post flyers in the restrooms of local businesses and other public places. Ward said posting them there allow victims to get information about their organization without anyone knowing.
Strong Hands Inc. is sponsored by the Scottdale Church of the Nazarene. Ward's father-in-law, the Rev. Burl Ward is pastor of the church.
Ward said the parsonage was not being used and the church was happy to help his daughter-in-law help others.
“She's one to look after people and help people. We decided to give her the space to do that and now these people don't have to be stuck in a bad situation,” Rev. Ward said.
He said the church will welcome anyone who comes to the center.
“If those helped at the center show a spiritual need she will help direct them to our church or another church of their liking. We are trying to help the complete person, body, mind and soul,” Rev. Ward said.
Terri Ward said the Bible Alliance Church in West Newton has also helped out the new organization a great deal.
She said while the organization is faith based, it will not be politically involved at all.
“We are just here for women and their needs,” she said.
Strong Hands is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours may be extended for the summer and or if more volunteers are added.
For more information or to get help, call 724-220-5820.
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.