By Anita Tucker
The Dove House took flight in 1987 when parishioners at St. Jude decided to put their words into action and do something positive for the community.
Twenty-five years later, tough economic times took a toll on donations and the shelter for domestic abuse victims closed its doors.
That was June 2012. The need for the shelter is still here. Getting those doors reopened is a priority for board of director members Jack James and Virginia Kelley and David and Sandra Hall, who will be joining the board next month.
Kelley’s late husband, Patrick, was the one who came up with the idea for the shelter, and she is returning to the board after several years away. She says the shelter is important to her because of her husband’s involvement as well as because of the great need for it in the county.
The late Sue Bradley was director of the shelter for several years. Kelley said Bradley would do whatever was needed for the women, including meeting a police officer at 3 a.m. to transport an abuse victim to the Dove House whose location is secret.
It is important, Hall said, to remember the first generation of directors and volunteers because without them "we wouldn’t have this."
James said counting the Halls, there currently are nine members on the board of directors. He said he would like to have a few more. Volunteer advocates also are needed, he said. The shelter sends the advocates for a day-long training course. The Dove House will have two paid positions and the rest will be volunteers.
The criteria for being a board member or volunteer is to have a passion for helping women who are domestic violence victims, James said.
There are an estimated 300 domestic violence calls in the county per year. Recently, the Van Buren County sheriff’s office hosted a refresher class for officers, first-responders and others to brush up on domestic violence laws and how to help victims. Circuit Judge H.G. Foster and District Judge David Reynolds, who were instrumental in writing the state’s laws on domestic abuse, spoke at the session.
One service the shelter offers is helping women file an order of protection against their abuser. That order can also be filled out online at www.arlegalservices.org and the completed form can then be turned in to the circuit clerk at the county courthouse.
The shelter also offers help to the women in other ways, including paying for her prescription medications and paying to relocate her to another county or state.
And sometimes, Kelley says, the women "just need somebody to talk to."
Those trying to reopen the shelter are getting some financial help from businesses and private donors. But often they are hearing that they must get reopened before they receive a contribution. They annual budget for the shelter is about $70,000, and the shelter needs enough money to cover a quarter of the year before it can reopen. Some aid is available from the state and some grants are available as well. Some grants the board will not apply for because they stipulate that men must be offered shelter as well. The board does not want men in the shelter, but can sometimes pay for them to be housed at a hotel.
The domestic violence situation is even worse when the economy is down, David Hall said. And, he said, the cycle of abuse must be broken. The Dove House is instrumental to that end.
The board of directors hopes to reopen the shelter July 1. But they need help. To help get the Dove House reopened, send donations to: The Dove House Inc., P.O. Box 806, Clinton AR 72031.