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Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

Opinion

Safe House for Women celebrates 25 years

Congratulations to the Safe House for Women, which celebrated its Silver Anniversary at a heartfelt and uplifting luncheon on Friday, June 9, which was key noted by Missouri Director of Public Safety, Drew Juden. Several hundred were in attendance at the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau Event Center.

Juden’s words were inspiring for their tribute to those who work with the Safe House, “not as labor, but a calling.

“It is a shame we have to have this resource. But it is essential,” Juden said. “Safe House is truly safe guarding people who might continue to suffer or live in fear without those who work with it.”

There were many highlights of the celebration, not least seeing Pat Strom, the organization’s founding board president, who talked about how the center came to be 25 years ago, citing “the call to service, the call to God.”

“The first few years were hard, but we were determined to have good relationships with churches, law enforcement and local officials,” Strom said. “I remember weeping when $80 went missing from a drawer [because we didn’t have any money]. Now this has grown thanks to the people who are willing to serve and support.

“I’m so proud of all the board members and staff and donors and volunteers who’ve made this possible.”

Linda Schild, a crisis advocate, spoke about how the Safe House transitioned from focusing on only domestic abuse victims without issues of mental health, addiction, homelessness, financial and legal problems to now taking them in, which requires additional resources and expertise.

Another crisis advocate, Kathie Woeltje, told a riveting tale of an early client, in fear for her children, who sneaked home while her abusive husband was away and hid beneath the bed until he returned and fell asleep. Then she braved her sons from the home in the middle of the night and brought them to the Safe House. “This is heart’s work,” Woeltje said. “And it is an organization well worth getting involved with.”

Other speakers at the event included Cape Girardeau chief of police Wes Blair, who identified the “true servant heart” of those involved, county commissioner Paul Koeper, shelter director and community impact director, Kimberly Dixon and Molly Wilhelm, respectively, and state representatives Kathy Swan and Donna Lichtenegger. According to Lichtenegger, who read a proclamation from the Missouri House, more than 200 people each year receive residential services at the Safe House, another 350 receive non-residential services.

To Juden, the Safe House in Cape Girardeau is one of the most successful in the state.

It is something Jessica Hill, executive director of the Safe House and emcee of Friday’s luncheon, should be very proud of: her staff, her volunteers, the support of area law enforcement and the broader community, and the women who have the courage to seek help.

To enhance the Safe House’s mission, Hill announced a new capital campaign to “provide the funds necessary to construct a new crisis shelter for women and their children who have experienced domestic and sexual violence in our community.” The campaign is seeking to raise $2 million. Monetary donations may be eligible for a 50 percent domestic tax credit. For more information, email development@semosafehouse.org or call (573) 335-7745.

Congratulations Safe House for Women! Your mission of service is inspiring, and it is having a transformational impact on the lives of many.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications. Email: jrust@semissourian.com

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