John Howell Sr. 3/5/13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

John Howell Sr.

Safe Shelter finds momentum of support growing

Jake Julian occasionally mentions a helpless feeling he encountered shortly after becoming Tri-Lakes Medical Center’s chaplain.

A woman who had been treated in the hospital emergency room for injuries she had suffered at the hands of her abusive husband was ready to be released. Julian, new to the community and the job, assumed that her next stop would be a shelter where she could continue her recovery without having to encounter her abuser.

There was none, and the only option available was to return to the home where the abuse had occurred, Julian said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

That realization, along with the helplessness he felt as the woman left the protection of the hospital, ignited the spark for Batesville Safe Shelter — a project to build in Panola County a refuge for recovery for victims of domestic violence.

Now, after having formed a 501 (3)c non-profit charitable organization and enlisting a board of willing volunteers to serve as directors, land has been made available to the organization, with a building suitable for modification to become the shelter Julian envisioned.

Batesville Safe Shelter announces on page A9 a campaign to raise $150,000 to help remodel the structure into suitable living quarters for women who have been victims of abuse — and their children. “There’s not a woman I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this for 25 years who’s going to leave her children behind with her abuser,” Julian said.

The organization will sponsor two fundraising events that will be announced soon. They are also seeking donations to help provide the emergency transitional temporary housing that is the goal of Batesville Safe Shelter.

“Our program aims to break the cycle of domestic violence by offering tools and resources needed to achieve basic employment skills, maintain stable, temporary housing, rebuild self esteem through individual and group support and gain independence and self sufficiency,” Julian’s letter states.

“It’s not something we can do by ourselves,” Julian said. “We need the whole community.”

“I spoke to Sheriff (Dennis) Darby; it’s getting worse,” Julian said. The hospital chaplain said that he monitors arrest and court reports closely.

“Between the Batesville Police Department and the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, it’s up to five or six a week,” he said. During 2011, there were 156 arrests reported in Panola County for domestic violence, he said.

“That’s just the ones that get reported,” he said.

“If we do not address the abuser, we’re not doing the job,” Julian said.

Batesville Safe Shelter also asks cooperation of judges at the justice and municipal court, and the circuit and chancery court levels to assist by requiring treatment for abusers by licensed counselors “to find out why you do what you do,” he said.

Batesville Safe Shelter’s approach to the domestic violence problem is comprehensive, but the simple step now is to increase community awareness and support.

If you want to learn more from Chaplain Julian, you can reach him at 662-609-5850. The Batesville Safe Shelter’s executive board includes Chris Smith at Caldwell Insurance, Barbara Bonnell at Regions Bank and Gina Sigler at Gina’s Interiors. Contact them to talk about the need for this shelter to help heal hurting people who are our neighbors right here in Panola County.

And donate — support the “Penny Parade” and carwash fundraisers soon to be announced, drop off a donation at Caldwell Insurance or mail a check to Batesville Safe Shelter, P. O. Box 1824, Batesville, MS 38606. Remember, you donation is tax deductible.

There’s another unique way that some can support this project. If you are a contractor with expertise in any of the building trades that will be needed for the conversion of the donated building into the semi-private housing and living quarters planned for this shelter, any time or material that you can donate will bring the cost of construction down.

“We’re going to need some contractors to devote some time,” Julian said.

The community has embraced the idea wholeheartedly with the donation of land and volunteers who have provided hours of volunteer support to establish the organization to create the non-profit corporation.
Now, the hat is being passed. It’s time for the rest of us to donate and fuel the growing momentum of support.