Soroptimist drive aids victims of abuse

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 8, 2013 

A local women's group gathered donations and contributed $1,000 for clothes, toiletries and other possessions for women and children facing maybe their darkest hour.

Soroptimist International of Los Banos, a volunteer service organization for women, held a drive for victims of domestic violence and children removed from unfit homes.

Soroptomist Helene Mitchell, a Merced County Human Services employee, said the possessions can mean something to a displaced child.

"When they're taken from their homes and they're taken to foster care, they have a bag of their own toiletries, stuffed animal, a journal to call their own," Mitchell said. "It's something (for) when they're going into a stranger's house to live."

Organizers said items were split between domestic violence and rape intervention center Valley Crisis Center and the Human Services Agency, which includes Westside Family Service Center in Los Banos.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Thirty to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household, according to the coalition.

Inside the Police Annex, volunteers packed bags Saturday for women and children who may have rushed out of a bad situation and left everyday items behind. The sacks held clothes and toys, and simple items like toothpaste and soap.

Lara Olson, a Valley Crisis Center advocate and a Soroptimist, said the cash came from area donors and will stay local. The group also donated a child's car seat and booster seat to Valley Crisis.

"It will stay here in the local office in case there's an emergency with a domestic violence situation," Olson said.

Reina Nino, another Valley Crisis advocate, said staff has been forced to scramble and find seats for children in past events.

"We get calls all hours of the night and sometimes we do respond in our own vehicle," Nino said. "So, it's nice to have it."

Soroptomists participate in an annual Saturday of Service, Mitchell said. The toys donated Saturday will be used by children in foster care visitation rooms.

"When they're visiting their parents, they have cards to play, board games to play, football and croquet, those types of things," Mitchell said.

Valley Crisis offers a children's group for victims of domestic violence meeting every Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Police Annex, 545 J St. Women's groups are offered in Spanish at 10 a.m. and English at 9 a.m. on alternating Thursdays.

The Valley Crisis women's shelter in Merced, which routinely sees Los Banos women, is in need of twin- and full-sized sheets and towels. To donate, call the shelter at (209) 725-7900.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

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