“People don’t normally think of domestic violence when they imagine Orange County, California,” says Melanie Galloway, Development and Volunteer Coordinator at Laura’s House, a shelter to empower and protect those affected by domestic violence in Orange County. “They think of palm trees and sandy beaches. They think of the Real Housewives.” The reality of domestic violence, however, is a far cry from the Bravo! television series.
In fact, according to the California Women‘s Health Survey, approximately 40% of California women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes (male lifetime prevalence rates are not available). This same study found younger women, 18-24 years of age, were significantly more likely (11%) to be victims of physical intimate partner violence in the past year than women in other age groups (CPEDV, 2011).
Laura’s House, an Emergency Shelter located in Orange County, California, aims to change social beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate domestic violence while maintaining a safe space to empower individuals and families affected by abuse.
“We empower our clients to make the best decisions for their families and themselves,” says Melanie. From therapy to childcare, legal advocacy, and case management to an in-house Resale boutique, Laura’s House provides services on every level to promote healing and independence.
“It’s an amazing transition when they realize that they can make it on their own,” she adds. And when they do, Emergency Shelter graduates within the last three years are invited to a holiday party in their honor, with holiday gifts, lunch, crafts and an opportunity to reconnect with their therapist, case manager, support staff and fellow graduates.
After the Laura’s House Emergency Shelter was rebuilt in December 2011, the facility has become a hub of warmth and support, alight with the buzz of activism. “It feels just like a home,” says Melanie. “It’s not cold or institutional. You walk in the doors, take a deep breath and all the worries just fade away.”
But that wasn’t the only renovation for Laura’s House. In 2012, Melanie began using an automated volunteer recruitment process through VolunteerLocal. “We rely heavily on our volunteers for special events, the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline, our Resale boutique and childcare,” she says. In fact, Laura’s House volunteers clocked in over 8,100 hours last year alone. With VolunteerLocal, Laura’s House now offers two volunteer training classes per month, a process that usually attracts between 5-15 attendees. “These are volunteers that may have otherwise gotten lost in the shuffle. [VolunteerLocal] allows us to have a more personal dialogue and interaction with them,” she says. “I can’t say enough about our experience using VolunteerLocal–we’re seeing more volunteers come through, get connected to opportunities, and have a realistic outlook on the opportunities available. I’m not having to rely on emails back-and-forth to connect with our volunteers—they are able to take control of the process. It’s been huge.”
Photos courtesy of Free-Extras, The Guardian and Laura’s House