Event raises money, awareness for domestic violence

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Special to the Daily Star

BUCHANAN — People gathered Saturday at the Nimby Pond farm near Baroda not only to have fun on a beautiful fall day, but to raise money for an important cause.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and proceeds from Saturday’s event went to support the Safe Shelter near Benton Harbor. The Safe Shelter is the only facility of its kind in southwest Michigan.

The name for Saturday’s first ever event was “Launching Hope for Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence.” Berrien County’s Safe Shelter is a program of the Child & Family Services of Southwestern Michigan organization. It offers a place for domestic violence survivors to stay as well as counseling and support groups.

Among those gathered at the farm were Keith and Tammie Stelter.

“I was at a Cornerstone chamber meeting and heard about Safe Shelter,” Tammie Stelter said. “I thought it was a wonderful program. The Safe Shelter is the only one of its kind in the three counties of Southwest Michigan. It provides an important service.”

Until recently, Keith Stelter owned Delta Industrial Valve in Niles.

“My wife was involved on the advisory board [for the organization] and I became involved through her,” Stelter said. “We all jointly came up with the idea for the fundraiser.”

In addition to helping organize the event, he did his part by building the catapult for the day’s main event, the pumpkin chucking challenge. With the help of his catapult, pumpkins were tossed to see which traveled the farthest.

In addition to the pumpkin launch, people could enjoy activities like pumpkin decorating, a bean-bag toss and live music from Terry & The Heartbeats. There was also a maze, a sandbox and a small tub filled with water and rubber ducks for children to enjoy. The fundraiser ended with a hog roast dinner.

Child & Family Services Executive Director Joseph Goepfrich said the goal of the fundraiser was two-fold: to raise money to support the shelter and its programs and to raise awareness about domestic violence itself.

The shelter’s wish list includes toiletry and personal care items, pajamas and slippers for women and children and gift cards so women can buy something of their own. They are also looking for bedroom decor items as well as cribs and playpens, bedding and blankets, towels and closet organizers.

“Today is about awareness and fundraising,” Goepfrich said. “We want people to become more aware of domestic violence as an issue. One myth is that it doesn’t happen here, but it does happen to people of all races and all backgrounds.

“Our physical shelter is in the Benton Harbor area and we provide transportation from anywhere in the area,” he said. “We also attend court hearings and help with supervised visitation when the court assigns visitation. We’re there for the children.”

“We’re raising funds today to support the shelter,” he added. “We charge no fees and are supported by state and federal grants as well as cash and in-kind donations. 25 percent of our support comes from the local community.”

Statistics provided by Goepfrich and Safe Shelter staff members are certainly sobering. Facts they provided include that a woman is the victim of domestic violence every minute and 20 seconds. There were 1,590 reported domestic violence cases in Berrien County in 2014 and more than 91,000 in the entire state.

Of the Berrien County cases, 71 percent involved the use of a weapon and two cases resulted in murder. Berrien County had the 15th highest incidence of domestic violence in the state last year, program director Kelly Nightingale said.

“Domestic violence is really about power and control,” she said. “People think it’s happening only to the poor or people from a certain ethnic background, but it happens to people of all races and all socio-economic classes.”

Nightingale noted that Safe Shelter serves everyone in Berrien County even if the shelter is located in the Benton Harbor area. They offer crisis intervention and counseling services one day a week in the Niles area and also offer counseling and support groups in the south county area.

Child & Family Services is in its 125th year of service to the Southwest Michigan community. Goepfrich noted that the organization’s mission to support vulnerable people in the community hasn’t changed even as the programs offered have changed and evolved.

As for the Nimby Pond farm is located in Baroda Township in the heart of wine country with both Tabor Hill Winery and Round Barn Winery just a short distance away. Nimby Pond is best known for its summertime snowmobile races over the pond.