Some places touch your heart so much you can’t help but share with others. This sentiment is how I feel about Center of Hope, a women’s shelter in Columbia, Tennessee. Center of Hope was founded in 1989 under the name Hope House. Their time of opening occurred not long after the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic Violence determined a need for emergency help and counseling for victims of domestic violence in Maury County. Center of Hope’s website reads, “77,540 cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking were reported in Tennessee during 2013.” While this statistic from a few years ago, there is still a continued need for treatment in the middle Tennessee area.
The word refuge means protection from danger, from a storm. Center of Hope provides just that to those in need: a home away from home offering care, understanding and hope. Violence and abuse can affect anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, location or socioeconomic status. Center of Hope’s mission is to serve as a refuge, providing victims with services such as advocacy, counseling and residential services. Their website reads, “It’s our job to stand up, speak out and put an end to their shame and hurt for good. Take a stand. Break the silence. End the Cycle.”
I spoke with Kassie Perry, the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate at Center of Hope. She informed me of some of the programs offered.
“We were founded as a shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault; however, we do more than shelter these victims. We offer advocacy and support services by helping victims stay connected to their district attorney, help with orders of protection, and safety planning,” Perry said.
“We are there for our victims emotionally, serving as a source of comfort and accompanying them to hospital or court, as well as through more practical manners, such as filling out paperwork.”
Other programs offered at Center of Hope include a Homeless No More program, which helps those struggling with homelessness get back on their feet.
“The donation department provides food, housing, clothing, and allows them to get re-established.”
There is also an Adopt a Family program, where Center of Hope takes down names and what the family needs and find people to help meet these needs. In addition to Perry, there are 11 other staff members, ranging from counselors to an executive director, shelter advocate, child advocate and support coordinator.
I was also able to speak with the Adonis Patton, the Support Coordinator. She explained there are two types of volunteer programs: individual volunteers who want to serve on an on-going basis, and secondly, group projects with more one-time events during the week or weekend. The first option allows individual volunteers to remain available for a 24-hour crisis line, working in the office, or Hope Boutique, an on-site donation room assisting clients directly or processing orders. The second option allows groups to work on more immediate needs, such as landscaping, painting, processing donations and stocking shelves.
Patton explained, “We want to customize the group volunteer experience to meet any age range of group. We’ve even had Brownie troops of young girls come help out.” No job is too small!
You can access Center of Hope’s donation list at their website. Center of Hope only accepts donations Tuesday and Thursday unless otherwise arranged. Please call 931-840-5414 between 8a.m. and 5p.m. to make delivery arrangements. Center of Hope is located at 2441 Park Plus Drive, Columbia, TN 38401. More information is available at centerofhopetn.org.
Helping out others is critical. Getting plugged in to your community and finding ways to give back, both through emotional support and more tangible, financial means can make a difference in people’s lives. Even just becoming educated on domestic violence and standing up for fair treatment of all people is crucial is making this type of behavior unacceptable. Start by spreading the word about Center of Hope, its mission and opportunities to get involved. As Center of Hope explains, “Domestic abuse is not a private problem; it’s a community concern and as a nonprofit, Center of Hope would not be able to continue to grow its services without the kindness and generosity of the entire community.”