The Caring Place celebrates 20 years

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By Brandon Mattingly

For The Caring Place, it’s a constant struggle.

The organization that’s based in Lebanon has been part of the fight to put an end to domestic violence for 20 years, and they’re showing no sign of slowing, because neither is the behavior they’re trying to stop.

Relying on private donations, fundraisers and a few grants, The Caring Place serves victims of domestic violence in Marion, Washington, Nelson and Taylor counties. Delena Trent, executive director, said the community’s support is the reason they’ve been able to last this long.

“We cannot say thank you enough for all the financial support that we’ve received from all of the counties. It’s the public who have kept us here and made us who we are,” she said.

Without the public donating money, used items and housekeeping items to help families restart their lives, Trent said many of the the shelter’s visitors, which are mostly women, would be without guidance.

“They leave with nothing. They leave with the shirts on their backs,” Trent said of those who walk away from a life of domestic violence. “Most of the time they don’t get out with their medicine, no food, no money. They just leave with nothing, which is to me, the number one source of bravery. While they are victims of domestic violence, to me they’re heroes, because it takes a lot to do that.”

Sr. Judy Popp of the Sisters of Loretto spear-headed the movement to start the shelter, which opened on Nov. 22, 1993, after working as a social worker and hearing countless stories of abuse. The Sisters of Loretto teamed with the Sisters of Nazareth and the Sisters of Saint Catharine for a town hall meeting to discuss what needed to be done. From there, Trent said the judge-executives in Marion, Washington and Nelson counties helped bring to fruition what was originally known as Tri-County Spouse Abuse.

Trent said Taylor County jumped on board after a few months and The Caring Place was born. She said support from the sisters came without the shelter needing to be a religious organization itself.

“Their philosophy was that they were all women and they recognized the need for domestic violence support,” Trent said.

Since that time, Trent said not a lot of major changes have had to be made.

“Sr. Judy set up such a beautiful system—we’ve tweaked a few things here and there—but the groundwork that she laid for us was so great that all she left for us to do was to continue on,” she said.

Over the past two decades, the emergency shelter has provided information, counseling, legal advocacy and referral services to victims.

The Caring Place employed on staff member, a counselor, over its first nine months. They eventually received a three-year grant from the Loretto Sister Mission Fund, which ensured salaries for a full-time director and counselor, as well as a part-time administrative assistant. Currently, they employ six part-time employees and Trent, the lone full-timer.

They expanded after receiving a housing grant that helped with renovations to the shelter, and in 2004, decided to open The Caring Closet, a thrift shop at 221 W. Main St. in Lebanon. The thrift shop doubles as an outreach center for those looking for someone to talk to about domestic abuse or to find out more about The Caring Place.

Hotline calls to the shelter have risen from 623 in 2010 to 813 in 2012.

Their reach has expanded as well, receiving calls from 17 counties three years ago and calls from 39 counties last year. Trent said increased awareness of The Caring Place isn’t the only reason for the rising number of calls, however.

“Domestic violence is on the rise and there’s more desperation, which leads to the calls,” she said. “Every eight seconds, a woman is abused. One-third of abused women abuse their relationships with their children. That’s why we have to educate, educate, educate.”

Over the last fiscal year, Trent said 72 crisis calls have come from Washington County, while 68 call reports—people just needing to talk—were taken. Eighty-one clients from Washington County were helped outside of the shelter.

Overall, Trent said The Caring Place, which to her knowledge is the only private domestic violence shelter in Kentucky (there are 16 government funded shelters), has helped roughly 6,500 people. The organization also works with many of them for up to two years after they leave the shelter.

If not addressed, Trent pointed out that domestic violence can lead to even more serious crimes, as boyfriends and husbands are responsible for 60 percent of the murders of women in the United States. She also noted that males have been found to be 10 times as likely to commit violent acts toward their own children if they grew up in a violent environment.

“That leads to the bullying. We are now trying to get into schools to try to address bullying,” she said. “We’re trying to get to these kids at a younger age, because what they see becomes their ‘normal.’ We’re trying to educate these children that that is not normal.”

Trent said with limited funding, the shelter isn’t planning a major celebration for their 20-year anniversary, but they do plan to recognize donors who have been by the side of The Caring Place from day one.

“We’ve had people who have been consistent donors for 20 years,” she said, “whether it be $5 or $500, they’ve all been a big support.”

Also counted among those who have helped The Caring Place through the years is local law enforcement, which Trent said has helped to provide protective orders, as well as transportation for victims. Trent advised calling 911 in an emergency situation and said the police would make sure they got to the shelter safely.

Victims of abuse can call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline number at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or call The Caring Place at (270) 692-9300. A staff member is available at the shelter 24/7.

The Caring Place, Inc. 2013 Board of Directors

Isabel Duley, Lebanon (Co-Chair)
Sr. Grace Simms, Springfield (Co-Chair)
Kathy Ferriell, Bardstown (Vice-Chair)
April Donathan, Springfield (Treasurer)
Lucinda Effner, Springfield (Secretary)
Pat Hagan, Bardstown
Sr. Kate Misbauer, Nerinx