Outreach center for victims of domestic abuse opens here

BY PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

Nov 18, 2007 - A new outreach center has opened its doors in Hopkins County for victims of family violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

SAFE-T Crisis Center (Shelter Agencies for Families in East Texas) was founded in Mount Pleasant in 1995 by residents and business people who united to help women and children of domestic violence and sexual assault. It has since grown to assist abuse victims in Camp, Franklin, Morris, Wood, and, now, Hopkins County as well.

"There is a need for domestic abuse services," said Carol Gresham, SAFE-T executive director, who explained Sulphur Springs was selected due to its size and close proximity to Mount Pleasant, as well as the rising need for such facilities in the area. 

Services include a 24-hour hotline, counseling, personal accompaniment to court, hospitals and police, information and referrals, housing assistance, shelter and children's advocacy. It also provides various programs such as Rape Crisis Intervention, Batterer's Intervention Programs (BIPP), Anger Management, Work Place Violence, Child Visitation and Exchange Program, a RISK (Resources, Information, Skills and Knowledge) group for teens, career preparation and other educational workshops.

Funding for SAFE-T services comes from concerned individuals, civic organizations, churches, and  state and federal grants. But as the crisis center has grown, and services increased, new sources for funding were needed. Therefore, the agency incorporated the opening of a thrift shop in Mount Pleasant which would allow the public to purchase both new and used items. The store operates strictly on donated items from throughout the community and the goods sold help to pay for materials that grants do not cover.

In addition to the new outreach office in Sulphur Springs, another resale shop, Second Look, also opened its doors at the facility, located at 421 Industrial Drive, Suite 211, at the shopping center next to the VF outlet mall. Merchandise includes clothing for men, women and children, shoes and accessories, as well as household items, decor, furniture, books, toys, games, hardware and more. 

According to Angela McMillan, Mount Pleasant store manager, Second Look provides a dual purpose. Not only is it a source of funding to provide programs for families, but the store also supplies women of abuse with necessities in their time of dire need.

"Often these women leave in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their back," she said. "They can come here and pick out clothes, linens, pots and pans, whatever they need to start over, free of charge."

Women using SAFE-T shelter services are assisted for six weeks. During that time, McMillan said, they get help finding housing, jobs,  establishing government services, counseling, as well as legal advice and action.

"It's very rewarding to be able to help the community in this way," said McMillan. 

Hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In 2006, SAFE-T has served approximately 904 abuse victims and soon will be expanding operations in Lamar County with an outreach office in Paris.

For more information, donations, or help, call 903-439-0325.

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