It's More Than a Shelter. It's Promise Place.

The education Promise Place provides to its clients and the community is just as important as the services they offer.

Promise Place has a new executive director, and as a survivor of domestic violence, Ashley Williams is grateful. "To be able to work with an agency and staff who are dedicated to a population of which I am a part of, means so much to me. It's what made it right for me. I have the passion and dedication to serve those who are like me."

Promise Place, originally named The Fayette County Council on Battered Women, was incorporated in 1987. With just two women and a pager used as a crisis number, they diligently sought to help women in crisis. Through the addition of many volunteers, the organization grew and the name was changed to Fayette County Council on Domestic Violence.

When Ashley Williams was going through what she went through, she didn't know places like Promise Place existed. "No one looks at the verbal, the mental, and the financial abuse that happens in domestic violence situations. That's why education is extremely important, and Promise Place provides that - not only to the clients that come in, but to students and the community. We start in middle schools educating about dating violence. We ensure there's an awareness so people understand what it is, and for those who are experiencing it, they know there's a place that offers help. Domestic violence has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, class, or gender. It breaks social, economic barriers and status - none of these matter. Anyone can be a victim."

In the 1990s, a building donated to the organization was renovated with start-up funding from the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Foundation and became a transitional house, called 'Lighthouse', for women and children in crisis. This house of five apartments, provided refuge where women and children fleeing abuse could stay for up to 18 months.

Fayette County is the largest county Promise Place serves. However, the footprint of the organization is deep and extends beyond Fayette County. Expanded domestic violence services began in 2004 throughout the Griffin Judicial circuit to include Spalding, Pike and Upson counties. Promise Place opened the first domestic violence shelter in 2007.

Today the organization has an office in each of the four counties in the judicial circuit and provides services to over 3,000 individuals per year through emergency shelter, a 24-hour emergency hotline, legal advocacy, weekly support groups, relocation assistance, financial assistance, crisis counseling, safety planning, a teen dating violence prevention program in all area's high schools, follow up services and community education.

The 24-hour crisis hotline, 770-460-1604, is answered by trained staff and volunteers providing crisis counseling, support and information to callers in need of domestic violence services. Someone is always available to listen whether the caller is ready to leave or just wanting to talk. If shelter is needed, the crisis hotline will work with the victim to get them to the shelter. Oftentimes, the victim arrives to the shelter with just the clothes on their back and the money in their pocket.

Nick Rider has served on the organization's Board for the past six years and is currently Past Chair. "Domestic Violence is prevalent in our county and in our communities. It breaks all of those social, economic and gender barriers. It's not selective. We need people to be watching, to be listening, to be willing to help if needed, to remember that Promise Place is here for that - to help individuals who are in that position, come out of that position."

Promise Place aims to prevent domestic violence. The education classes have been pivotal to teach youth what the early signs of domestic violence looks like. Early signs that can lead to emotional distress, which in turn may lead to creating a domestic violence situation, include but are not limited to: withholding financial resources and information, not being allowed to leave the house, restricting travel, controlling transportation, and having aggressive conversations. It's not just physical violence, and Promise Place is more than a shelter.

While the bulk of the organization's funding comes from government grants, support from local businesses, churches and individuals is a welcome and needed resource. Promise Place's current Board Chair Jamie Meyer, humbly extends gratitude on behalf of the organization. "The community's support is important to this organization, and we are thankful for continued support as well as new support for the organization. Promise Place means so much to those in need in our community."

As clients transition through emergency/temporary housing to safe permanent housing, there is continuous need for household essentials, such as bedding, white towels and face rags, pots and pans, new pillows, and personal hygiene kits. These items, as well as women's clothes, purses and other accessories can be delivered to their main office on Thursdays. Promise Place - where promises are made and kept, by amazing volunteers and staff.

LEARN MORE: This year marks the 18th year for Promise Place's signature event, the Domestic Violence Run, which is held during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Check the organization's website at promiseplace.org to see the date for this 5K run and 1-mile walk to end domestic violence.

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