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How can advocates and communities honor and support women in shelter on Mother’s Day?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

We fight for our children before we fight for ourselves.” ~ Domestic Violence Survivor (DV Services Study, 2011)

In the month of motherhood celebration, thousands of mothers and mothers-to-be across the country will spend Mother’s Day in a domestic violence shelter. Findings from a multi-state study of shelter residents indicate that more than three in four domestic violence survivors (78 percent) have children under the age of 18; sixty-eight percent have minor children with them while staying at the shelter. In addition to a safe place to sleep at night, survivors who are mothers have a number of other child-related needs such as children’s counseling, safety planning, childcare and schooling, among others (DV Census Project and DV Services Study). Domestic violence programs striving to meet these needs often seek support in developing fundraising strategies to sustain these important services. In response, the NRCDV has compiled information about creative Mother’s Day campaigns and events organized by domestic violence programs and organizations across the country to raise both funds and awareness in celebration of the courageous mothers who seek refuge in their shelters. The initiatives described below are intended as a source of inspiration for advocates in planning their own activities.

Seventy-eight percent of domestic violence shelter residents have children under the age of 18 and 68% percent have minor children with them while staying in the shelter. (Shelter Study, 2008)

Mother’s Day Cards: One simple and concrete way for people to honor their mother or another special woman on Mother’s Day, while also helping a woman in shelter, is by making a donation to a local program. Some programs across the country, like the Shelter for Help in Emergency in Charlottesville, VA, have developed “Mother’s Day Cards” fundraising campaigns. When individuals make a donation to the shelter, the donor’s mother, or another woman they choose to honor, receives a card notifying her that a monetary contribution made in her honor has helped a woman in shelter.

“A gift of $45 will help the Shelter to provide one night of safe housing, counseling and support for a woman in crisis.” (Shelter for Help in Emergency)

Flower Project: The Mother’s Day Flower Project of Jewish Women International (JWI) is a variation of a Mother’s Day card campaign. When individuals make a donation to the Flower Project in honor of a special woman in their lives, JWI sends a card to the designated recipient stating that a charitable contribution has been made in her honor. JWI then sends bouquets of flowers to domestic violence shelters across the country. Funds raised also help to sustain JWI programs to empower women and break the cycle of domestic violence. Local programs across the country have thought of additional ways to connect their fundraising efforts to the tradition of giving flowers on Mother’s Day, including organizing Mother’s Day Flower Sales and garden-themed celebrations, where mothers and children in shelter make potted or fresh flower arrangements to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Pampering: A haircut or pedicure may help to lift someone’s spirit! Domestic violence programs can partner with salons, spas and beauty schools in their communities to provide women in shelter with free pampering and salon services in preparation for Mother’s Day. In 2005, Jaden’s Ladder, New Hampshire-based non-profit assisting survivors of domestic violence, partnered with Dellaria Salons to provide six moms with an afternoon of complementary salon services the Sunday before Mother’s Day.

Project Mother’s Day: Children staying in shelter may have little or no means to get a gift to their moms on Mother’s Day. With that in mind, Project Mother’s Day from Solstice Designs partners with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to reach shelters across the country. The Project provides handcrafted jewelry to give to children living in domestic violence shelters. The children in turn give the jewelry as their gift to mom on Mother’s Day. The Project hopes to grow larger by inspiring other “local, national and international jewelry designers to offer their work as part of the give.”

Mother’s Day Run/Walk: Physical activity based events such as walk-a-thons, cycling races and 5K-runs have been traditionally used by local programs to raise funds and awareness about domestic violence, and some programs have been effectively connecting this type of activities to their Mother’s Day celebrations and fundraising efforts. For example, HAVEN in Bozeman, MT is kicking-off its first annual Mother’s Day 5k Run/Walk this year. The idea is for participants to honor their moms on Mother’s Day by “spending quality time on a beautiful scenic route while giving back to HAVEN services to women and children in need.” In keeping with the Mother’s Day theme, moms will receive a special gift as they cross the finish line, and families with children of all ages are encouraged to participate. For the Center Against Rape & Domestic Violence (CARDV) in Corvallis, OR, 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of their Annual CARDV Mother’s Day Run/Walk for Safe Families.

Mother’s Day Luncheons: Luncheons, brunches and teas are another fun category of event being organized by local communities to celebrate Mother’s Day while raising proceeds to local shelters. Usually, the entire community is invited to attend this type of event, and guests are encouraged to purchase tickets for themselves, as well as for their mothers, grandmothers, daughters, or other special women in their lives. While guests enjoy good food in the company of family and friends, local programs can share the story and celebrate the extreme courage and strength of one or several mothers in shelter. These events are normally hosted and supported by local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, resorts, and catering services so it is critical for domestic violence advocates to partner and foster meaningful relationships with the local business community. The inclusion of vendor tables, auctions, raffle prizes, and shows help making the event more attractive to the community and maximizing the proceeds to support the work of local shelters. This year, Emerge! in Tucson, AZ is holding its 11th Annual Mother’s Day Luncheon. Mothers in Akron, OH will be celebrated in the Mother’s Day Brunch being held by the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit & Medina Counties. In Las Vegas, Safe Nest is honoring several prominent mothers in the community by hosting a Mother’s Day Tea.

Shelter staff can also choose to host private Mother’s Day brunches or dinners for residents within the shelter facility. In this case, programs can enlist staff or volunteers to prepare the meal in celebration of the mothers. Staff and volunteers can also cook alongside the residents (and maybe include the children) to prepare a special meal for the mothers. Older children can surprise their moms by helping decorate the shelter and/or by cooking the favorite dish or dessert mom use to prepare at home. As usual, paying attention to diverse food traditions may help moms from different cultural backgrounds feel included and appreciated.

Ladies Night Out: Domestic violence programs can also partner with local restaurants and movie theaters to obtain gift cards so that shelter residents can go out as a group (with or without their children) and celebrate Mother’s Day. Shelter staff and volunteers can arrange for childcare and transportation to help make this happen.

Gift Bags/Baskets: Another tangible way for individuals, schools, churches and businesses to honor mothers and support shelters on Mother’s Day is by “adopting” a mom (or all the current residents at a local shelter) to receive Mother’s Day gift baskets. Individuals can coordinate with friends, families, coworkers or congregations to purchase relatively inexpensive gifts to deliver to a local shelter. Local stores can partner with domestic violence programs to provide gift certificates, makeup, toiletries, books, candies, and other small items for gift baskets to shelter residents. Basic Necessities, a California-based charity, has provided gifts to women in shelters through its “Baskets of Love” initiative.

Tender Loving Care: Some moms in shelter may require additional tender loving care on Mother’s Day, especially if they are grieving a child’s death or miscarriage, have lost custody of their children or are unable to be with them for a variety of other reasons. Mother’s Day celebrations may be emotionally triggering to these mothers, and shelter staff needs to be mindful and prepared to offer extra support and allow the time and space the survivor needs to cope with separation from or loss of her children.

How is your program celebrating and honoring mothers in shelter this year? Please share your creative ideas!