Shasta County Women's Refuge
By Brandi Barnett
Tell Someone, Help SomeoneApril 2007
By Michael O'Brien
Shasta County Women’s Refuge (SCWR) is a local non-profit agency with a mission to help end domestic violence and sexual assault in Shasta County. The energy required for such an undertaking is fueled by love and compassion originating with Gretchen Peterson, a widow in the late 1970s who began offering her home as a refuge of safety to women and children victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. Word quickly spread about Peterson’s compassion. She often had callers picked up in taxicabs and delivered to her home during the five years she assisted such victims. During this time, she attracted the attention of the american association of University Women, which worked to form the not-for-profit SCWR in 1979. Women’s Refuge eventually purchased Peterson’s home and converted it into a permanent shelter. to this day, the SCWR shelter is known simply as “Peterson House.”
Today the SCWR is about much more than providing shelter. Peterson’s spirit of caring has transcended the years to the folks who have created this community outreach organization dedicated to truly eliminating the need for shelters by eliminating domestic and sexual violence. The enthusiasm displayed by everyone involved is contagious. executive Director maggie john employs her no-nonsense business skills and non-profit organization work experience to lead a team of Board of Directors members, employees, and volunteers, sponsors and contributors. The results are an organization that has been embraced by the community to accomplish this goal.
Three mission-related activities dominate the days of those involved:
• Helping people for whom the organization was set up
• Raising funds to keep the operation running
• Finding people who are willing to volunteer their time
Who are victims of the type of violence addressed by SCWR and its supporters? “Our clients could be anyone you know,” says Maggie John. “The people we help are called ‘clients,’ because we serve them by helping to eliminate violence from their lives.” How exactly does the SCWR assist people in need of their help? “First, we work with the community to promote and participate in intervention, education, and advocacy to prevent domestic and sexual violence,” explains john. “While our goal is elimination, we recognize that violent acts against women and children occur. When they do, we are poised to help.” The SCWR offers many programs to address these issues. The majority of their effectiveness is achieved through a Crisis Line, the Shelter, and through preemptive educational programs.
“The most critical position for the SCWR is the Crisis Line,” john said. after going through an intensive training program, volunteers staff the 24-hour hotline (530-244-0117 or 866-329-7297) by assisting callers needing Women’s Refuge help. Depending on the call, SCWR employees and volunteers respond in ways from offering information, to arranging for emergency food, clothing or shelter, to contacting first responders who meet victims in need of medical attention at local hospitals.
Clients who need sanctuary from violent situations are brought to Peterson House. This shelter provides an undisclosed, temporary homelike setting that offers people a safe opportunity to take control of their lives and develop self-sufficiency. Children are given the opportunity to play and learn, and to discard a violent or abusive home life. Legal assistance is available for child custody or restraining order issues.
SCWR recognizes that prevention is the best way to reach the mission of eliminating violent crime, and has therefore set up community outreach violence prevention programs. Shasta County schools, businesses, service clubs and organizations regularly invite Women’s Refuge education Department personnel to teach their people what to look for to avoid and prevent violent abuse and sexual crimes, and to recognize people who are victims. to this end, SCWR developed passalong “tell Someone/Help Someone” Crisis Line cards. after a SCWR presentation, participants are given these cards to pass along to people in their lives who might need the Refuge’s services.
Awareness is also achieved via participation or sponsorship of local events. SCWR will set up an information distribution booth at the April 25th “take Back the Night” community event. On may 20th, SCWR is sponsoring a Bob Newhart show at Win River Casino. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to Women’s Refuge. in October, the “Respect Conference” will be held, targeted to service providers such as school counselors, emts and police officers, as well as teens.
Many more programs and forms of help are available from the Shasta County Women’s Refuge. to request assistance with a domestic or sexual violence issue, to invite Women’s Refuge to your place of business or organization, to lend a helping hand, or to pick up some “tell Someone/ Help Someone” cards, stop by the Client Services Center at 2280-a Benton Drive (Deiselhorst Landing) in Redding, or call their business line: 530.244.0118. is it you? tell someone. is it family or a friend? Help someone. Shasta County Women’s Refuge is ready to help.�