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Domestic, sexual violence victims have new place to get help

Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier
Strong Hands Inc. staff discusses one of the training manuals in the new center’s counseling room. Volunteers must complete 80 hours of training to be certified to work with victims of domestic or sexual violence at the center in Scottdale. From left are Vice President Amity Kramer, Director Shannon Bibby and President Terri Ward.

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Monday, May 5, 2014, 3:58 p.m.

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 today at 502 Market St., Scottdale. The mission of the organization is to help prevent victimization and empower 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,” Director Shannon Bibby said.

President Terri Ward of Ruffsdale said she was working as an insurance broker for health care 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,” Ward said. “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 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 a friend, Amity Kramer of Mt. Pleasant. Kramer is now the organization's vice president.

Bibby of Ruffsdale said 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 that was the old parsonage of the Scottdale Church of the Nazarene, it is not a shelter, but they would someday like to be able to offer those services as well.

The house 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 being utilized to store household items, which will be given to those who must leave their home because of a violent situation and set up a new one.

“Usually, if a woman flees her home, she leaves 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 counselor. She said the organization 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 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 they also are looking for male volunteers to go through training so there is someone male victims will be more comfortable talking with.

In addition, the group needs volunteers to help post flyers in the restrooms of local businesses and other public places. Ward said posting them there allows victims to get information about their organization without anyone finding out.

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.

The Rev. 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,” he 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,” the minister said.

Terri Ward said the Bible Alliance Church in West Newton also has helped the new organization a great deal.

She said while the organization is faith-based, it will not be politically involved.

Strong Hands is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours may be extended for the summer if more volunteers are added.

For more information or to get help, call 724-220-5820.

Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.

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