PORT RICHEY — About 100 community leaders attending the inaugural Peace Breakfast last week heard tales of domestic violence from two of its victims.
Salvation Army Pasco Corps officials created the event to appeal for funds for the domestic violence shelter, which provides everything for free to victims rebuilding their lives.
Guests responded with some $20,000 in donations, according to Maria Matheus, the corps’ public relations coordinator and liaison.
Bruce and Cheryl Landon of the Landon Outreach Foundation had pledged to match any donations from the breakfast. Sharon and Robert Lichter were among gold sponsors, as well as the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.
Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten, host Shawn Foster, a long-time Salvation Army advisory board member, said. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury, more than accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Three women are murdered every day by husbands or boyfriends.
But Foster and the two main speakers help “put a face” on the problem, as Foster put it.
About six years ago, Foster and his wife Teresa helped a “dear friend” leave a bad situation. She and her two children were packing while their abuser was at work. Frantically they searched for their cat. The cat was found dead, apparently killed and stashed under a bed.
“That incident left a permanent mark on my consciousness,” Foster said. “It happened to a friend or mine, somebody I knew. It wasn’t just something I read in the newspaper.” Woman is now happily remarried after years of counseling.
Using the fictitious first name Ann to protect her idenity, the woman the Fosters helped said, “It’s something that you never think will ever happen to you,”
She started over only to have her tormentor find her. o she and her four children drove to Florida with assurance to help from an organization that never materalized.
“I sat on the curb and cried,” Ann said. “My children cried with me because we had nowhere to go. We had no one here.”
She then turned to Salvation Army staff who told her “we help you so long as you want to help yourself.” She and her children settled into a room. Staff helped her with an online job application and gas money to the interview. Two weeks later she was working and rebuilt her life.
Kristine — another assumed name — asked the people attending the Peace Breakfast if they had ever been bullied in grade school. Domestic violence is like “living with your bully,” Kristine said.
Her parents divorced when she and her two brothers were very young.
“My brothers and I, we beat the odds,” Kristine remarked. She graduated high school with a GPA of 4.23 and went to college and is working toward a degree.
She had a daughter, but her daughter’s father was out of picture.
Kristine got married, but then her daughter’s father wanted them back. Even worse, Kristine recalled, her husband at the time became jealous over lies he was told. “My ex-husband controlled my life,” Kristine said.
The situation reached a crisis. Her now former husband spend a short time in jail and she went to a hospital. She moved, but her abuser found her.
Finally Kristine reached out to Salvation Army. As she and her daughter traveled along U.S. 19 on the way to the shelter, they saw a double rainbow.
“And that was a sign to me that I was heading in the right direction, that I was going to the right place,” Kristine said.
With no relatives nearby, the shelter provided the support system Kristine needed. She had to contend with divorce and custody cases at the same time.
“It took a lot of work to realize it wasn’t my fault,” Kristine commented. She used to think she put her daughter in situation. Now she realizes she had protected her daughter, who was young enough at the time that she does not remember the ordeal.
Kristine got custody of her daughter and moved out of the area to find a new home. Kristine found a job and she is line to get a promotion.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Kristine said.
The Pasco domestic violence shelter came to the aid of 161 adults and 116 children the past year, Foster summarized. That me resulted in 6,059 shelter nights and 18,177 meals.
“They don’t pay for a thing,” Lynn Needs, director of the DV program said. She praised her staff who work 24/7 to aid people.
“You have to do good in the community,” donor Robert Lichter said at the breakfast. “I’ve been fortunate, I’ve been blessed. What good is a big bank account, and all that stock, if you can’t do something in the community to help the unfortunate? To save one person is to save a life, is to save the world.”