Safer Futures fundraiser helps keep the shelter running despite state cuts

Photo via Safer Futures

Safer Futures held its 12th annual Hope in a Handbag fundraising event on Friday at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, where guests bid on designer purses to support Portage County’s only domestic violence shelter.

The fundraiser featured new and slightly used bags for sale in a silent auction format. Supporters could also enter into a 50/50 raffle for gift baskets that were filled with prizes and treats.

“I just want [people] to understand and have awareness about all of the amazing services that we are able to provide,” said Lauren Webb, who is Director of Domestic Violence Services in both Portage and Trumbull counties. “We are here for the community and for the individuals who are in need.”

Safer Futures provides protection to survivors of domestic violence through emergency shelters, which are confidential locations for fleeing victims; a 24/7 hotline where domestic violence specialists offer resources to those experiencing intimate partner violence; youth and legal advocacy; and a transitional space where survivors can extend their stay if they have to. 

Most of Safer Futures’ primary funding comes from grants and donations. But since state lawmakers slashed the Federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) allocation in 2020 by $7.7 million, it has been harder for organizations like Safer Futures to have consistent funding. This makes events like Hope in a Handbag vital to keep these programs afloat.  

“We’re able to utilize funding from events like this to not only help keep the shelter going and staffed,” Webb said, “but also for direct assistance for the individuals that we’re serving.”

At press time, Safer Futures was not able to report the total amount raised in this year’s fundraiser.

During 2022, Safer Futures has sheltered over 100 adults and children and answered nearly 1,000 hotline calls to provide safety plans and group support to those escaping abusive situations. 

With over 60 donors and sponsors present, the event called attention to the organization’s accomplishments.

“I walked in believing my life was completely and truly over, that I would never survive this again,” said “R,” an anonymous survivor who is now staying at Safer Futures, according to a presentation displayed at the event. “I have never been on my own or done anything without a man who was not abusive. Every single person here took the time to talk to me and listen.”

For many people like Equanna Westbrooks, an Akron resident who has been attending Hope in a Handbag for the past five years, not only is it a good cause but it is also an engaging way for people who love purses to do good work for others.

“It’s great that they have a facility in Portage County, for an outlet for people who need that kind of help,” Westbrooks said. “It’s a shame there’s only one, but I think the work they do is great because there are people out there who need it.”

Jala Forest
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