SAFECENTER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Hannah Gottschalk is asking the community for support.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and with the pandemic still in place, awareness is more critical than ever. Domestic violence includes a combination of physical, mental, sexual and even economic abuses of victims (survivors) including men, women and children – and is often hidden from public view. With COVID-19 and all of the related stressors including more time spent in risky home situations, domestic violence is increasing. Bringing the issue to the forefront, the SafeCenter, a nonprofit organization providing critical care resources for survivors, has organized a fundraising telethon event from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27 through Thursday, Oct. 29. The public is invited to donate online, over the phone or in person by calling (989) 723-9716.
The Owosso SafeCenter is located on N. Hickory Street with a sister branch in Clinton County. The nonprofit, considered an essential service, has been operational throughout the pandemic, operating under health department guidelines. Hannah Gottschalk is the executive director at the SafeCenter; starting in her position just 14 months ago, she and her team have worked tirelessly to continue to provide services for domestic and sexual abuse survivors.
Gottschalk shared the shelter has remained full all year, though it is operating at 50 percent capacity as has been mandated. She said the SafeCenter did receive $5,000 to help clients stay in motels when they could not immediately safely place them.
“We need the community support because general donations have been down since the onset of COVID, and that’s a trend that’s kind of happening all over,” she shared. “Paper towels, cleaning supplies, paper products, personal need items – donations in general are down. We’ve had to limit any donations of personal belongings just because we don’t know where they are coming from and it’s too risky for my staff and clients. But household products, we need all of that. Then also, we need money.”
As many local nonprofits are aware, fundraising during a pandemic is extremely difficult.
Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Gottschalk is eager to reach out to the public in a two-fold effort – creating a conscious awareness of domestic violence within the local community and also to ask the community for needed support. She is hopeful people will participate in the upcoming telethon fundraising effort. If people want to donate earlier, that is also welcome.
“It’s October. It’s the start of a new fiscal year. We have remained open and fully functional, limiting people who are coming in and out of the office. We’ve kept people safe. We’ve kept people healthy. We need support now,” she stated.
“Domestic violence has increased. Calls to law enforcement have increased. Especially as we get into the colder months, we are seeing an increase in calls to the crisis line, as well. We are anticipating that the need for our services is going to be great,” Gottschalk explained.
The primary group the SafeCenter currently assists is the 25 to 40 crowd. “This generation is so different from the generation before. The access, social media, all this stuff coming at them, so it makes things a lot more difficult,” she said. “And more people are on social media during a pandemic, because how else do you communicate and engage with people.”
The crisis hotline number is (877) 952-7283. The Owosso SafeCenter is located at 1300 N. Hickory St., Owosso. The office number is (989) 723-9716.