For some local children, this Christmas will be the first cause for celebration.
That’s because after enduring or witnessing abuse in the home, they’ve finally found a safe, nurturing place to go.
And Shanta Nowell and her colleagues at Domestic Violence Shelter and Services want to make sure they start off their new holiday traditions the right way.
The shelter is holding “Wrap Up Your Hopes and Dreams,” a toy drive and wrapping party, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Red Robin’s, 905 International Drive in the Mayfaire shopping center.
It’s an annual event that was put on hold the last two years due to a lack of sponsors, Nowell said. But, she added, the burger restaurant has stepped up this year to help make it happen.
“Hopefully this will be an ongoing process with them,” Nowell noted. “It’s a family restaurant and even though this is about domestic violence, our focus is always on the family. So, we’re trying to keep that whole momentum going.”
When women–and sometimes, men–come to the shelter in search of an emergency refuge, they often have children in tow. Nowell said while the agency offers 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, shelter, it also helps victims get on the path toward empowerment.
Domestic Violence Shelter and Services offers group counseling for both adults and children, as well as court advocacy.
“It’s about getting that family stable but also looking at what can we do moving forward,” Nowell noted.
And, she said, staff tries to bring the love and support needed to ultimately break the cycle of abuse.
“It starts with the children; it’s a learned behavior. If you’re going to stop that you’ve got to show them another way,” Nowell said.
That’s why making Christmas a positive experience is so crucial. Often, people come to the shelter with few possessions and little or no money. Nowell said approximately 100 children associated either short- or long-term with the agency are in need of gifts this year.
“They’re starting over; they don’t have the resources,” she said. “So we are making sure these children are taken care of during the holidays.”
Area companies annually “adopt” families the shelter serves during the holidays to provide gifts, goodies and needed items. Verizon Wireless adopts 20 families each year, for example, and Nowell said New Hanover Regional Medical Center has picked up 28 to assist with this Christmas. Red Robin’s also has two drop-off boxes for gifts set up in its lobby.
But the wrapping party on Saturday is the Domestive Violence Shelter’s final push to bring in new, unwrapped toys ahead of its Dec. 15 holiday party, which is sponsored by Temple Baptist Church.
During “Wrap Up Your Hopes and Dreams,” individuals and groups can bring in their donations and wrap them up onsite. Nowell said it’s a great opportunity to get the family involved in a fun activity that is also doing some good for the community.
While the agency is collecting toys for infants through 17-year-olds, Nowell said the greatest gap is in the teenage-appropriate gifts.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.