Women’s shelter to have ‘extreme makeover’

Published 11:59 pm Monday, November 16, 2009

It’s been said, “we are products of our environment.” And the nine citizens who gathered Monday at the battered women’s shelter, Opportunity House, hope to soon provide an even better environment for clients looking to begin their lives anew.

The group of concerned citizens, led by WAMI’s Harry Phillips and comprised of contractors, cabinet makers, a painter, an interior designer and an appliance store representative, made their way room by room through Opportunity House to lay out their plans for its interior renovation.

Last week, Phillips addressed county commissioners about the living conditions inside the shelter, and asked for assistance. Since then, community support for Phillips’ request has been overwhelming and donations — both cash and items for the remodeling — have poured in.

In the coming weeks, gone will be the too-tight kitchen with its black-and-white checkered floor, the cramped utility room and the dark and mismatched dining area.

In their place will be a cabinet-filled and brightly colored kitchen, new appliances and furniture –— a new environment that Opportunity House Director Deborah Hooks said will hopefully show the shelter’s clients what they can achieve upon leaving the facility.

“For the most part, people tend to think that domestic violence is ugly, and they don’t want to get involved,” Hooks said. “These women don’t have the means to make it on their own. Opportunity House is the first step in the process of proving to these women what they can accomplish.

“A lot of them don’t have a family support system, so we serve as their family,” she said. “We try to make them as independent enough where they don’t have to go back to that abusive environment.

“When they’ve been beat down for so many years, the bulk of them don’t think they deserve a nice life, a nice place to live,” she said. “We try to change that, and now, thanks to Harry (Phillips) we will have the facility to prove that to them.”

In 2008, the shelter answered 1,000 crisis calls and serviced 200 clients, both in-house at the shelter and out of shelter, providing counseling and court support, with funding obtained through grants and private donations.

There has never been any money for “upgrades,” she said.

“The problem of domestic violence will never be solved if people aren’t involved,” she said. “Judging from the amount of support this community has given us … it’s just going to be wonderful for the women and their children we serve.

“We can’t thank them enough,” she said. “Especially Harry. He’s just taken this upon himself and it’s working out wonderfully.”

Opportunity House serves Covington, Conecuh and Monroe counties and offers a 24-hour crisis telephone line, individual and group counseling and transportation for victims. Staff members also develop case management plans for each adult resident and provide court advocates for clients, who prepare and support victims during legal proceedings.

Attending the day’s work session were Phillips, Deidra Laird of Deidra’s Designs who agreed to re-design the shelter’s interior; Scotty Short of Scotty Short Construction, who will perform the bulk of the construction work; Brian Hawthorne of Kinston’s Hawthorne Cabinets; Charles Whitaker of C&P Custom Cabinets; Larry Crutchfiled of Opp’s Cabinets 4 U; Cliff Maddox of Southern Pipe and Supply; Larry Stevens, painter; and Missy Boggs from Cooperative Propane, who has agreed to donate new appliances. Those who have pledged help but were not in attendance were Due Taylor of Bob Taylor’s Carpet One and a representative from Barrow Furniture.