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Opportunity House gets $10K for court advocate

Opportunity House, the Opp domestic violence shelter for women and children, received an early Christmas present Monday in the form of a $10,000 grant.

Announced by House Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) and State Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba), the grant is part of the federally funded “Stop Violence Against Women Program” and was awarded through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

The money will be used to provide a court advocate for its clients.

“Opportunity House has an outstanding record of service to Opp and the surrounding areas,” Hammett said. “This grant will enable the shelter to continue to help women, most of whom do not have an attorney, to navigate the legal system.”

Holley added the shelter is a lifeline for women in crisis and that he was glad this grant would help provide the continuation of “vital services” for its residents.

Shelter director Deborah Hooks said she was thankful for the funding.

“Women who have suffered domestic violence often need someone with experience to speak for them to the lawyers and judges,” Hooks said. “Anyone who has ever been to court knows what a scary, traumatic experience that is. Imagine having to stand by yourself and face the perpetrator and his attorney. Our staff acts on (the women’s) behalf, helping them navigate the legal system.

“This is a good grant and a needed one for Opportunity House,” she said. “If (the shelter) didn’t have anyone, I don’t know how these women would ever receive any justice.”

The day’s announcement is the most recent “good news” for the shelter.

In November, a group of local business owners and good Samaritans came together to organize a physical renovation for the shelter property.

Hooks also said Monday it is her intent to apply for an ADECA energy grant to help make further renovations to the property.

“Without (the Stop Violence) grant — or any other money we receive — it would be difficult to provide anything more than a place of refuge for our clients,” she said.