The Purple Flower expands hours, advocates and more

Thursday, December 19, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Purple Flower Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Resource and Support Center is making some changes.

Starting in December, the organization expanded its hours to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and added two new advocates, Michelle Davis and Monica Hamil. Director Barb Weems said these changes were made possible through a grant, saying she's excited to use the grant to reach out to the Carroll County community.

"This means more education and awareness to the community, as well as us being more visible in Berryville and Green Forest," Weems said. "Domestic violence is not concentrated in any one area. There is need all over the county, and we serve the whole county."

Weems added, "It's a privilege to be present in the whole county and provide that face-to-face education and advocacy."

Moving into the new year, Weems said, she expects to get out into the community much more.

"We're hoping to do things a little more out-of-the-box and be present at ECHO Clinic and the food banks," Weems said. "We want to actually have a human there to offer resources and advocacy."

Lead advocate Patty Morris said that kind of outreach is important.

"Even though we've been here for five years," Morris said, "I still run into people that don't realize there is a domestic violence support organization here in town. So the more we get out there, the more people know we exist."

Davis and Hamil said they are excited to work with the organization. Davis said she has worked in the social services field for 19 years, and Hamil said she has worked in the field for around eight years.

"My first job was working at a domestic violence shelter," Davis said. "I learned I really had a heart for women and children that were in need and felt powerless."

Davis continued, "A lot of times, they're isolated from family and friends, so to step in and be supportive and empower these women is really important to me."

Hamil agreed, saying she has worked at a domestic violence shelter too.

"I enjoy helping people in this trying time in their lives," Hamil said. "I'm happy to be here."

Expanding the hours is a big deal, Weems said, but it comes with additional costs.

"We have larger bills for operating costs. Cold hard cash is wonderful to go into our operating fund," Weems said, "and this being an old, old building, it's difficult to heat, so those utility bills won't go away."

With the holidays upon us, Weems said, the organization needs gas cards and gift cards to stores like Walmart and Dollar General. Food scarcity is always a problem in the community, Weems said, but that's especially true during the holiday season.

"If we could give them a gift card," Weems said, "they could get their needs met."

Morris said the organization always accepts toiletries and items like diapers and coffee pods for the Keurig.

"There's been a few requests over time for diapers. Women with children need diapers," Morris said. "And we do go through the coffee pods. The ladies do drink some coffee."

Volunteers are welcome, Weems said, especially those who can interpret different languages.

"We are always looking for volunteers for interpreting," Weems said. "We're looking for volunteers for pet fostering."

Another recent addition, Morris said, is support services for the survivors of sexual assault. Morris said the organization hopes to expand that part of its mission in 2020.

"We'll continue to work with law enforcement and the hospitals and put the word out that we're here for anybody who needs any help in regards to a sexual assault," Morris said.

"And that's no matter when it happened," Weems said. "If it was 20 years ago, we're here to support you in the aftermath."

Davis said she's happy to hear the organization offers those services. What drew her to The Purple Flower, Davis said, is its dedicated volunteers and rich history. Davis recalled when the organization was founded in 2014, just two years after Carroll County resident Laura Aceves was murdered by the father of her child on New Year's Eve.

"I was impressed with the history of how this place got started and the mission they have," Davis said.

With the anniversary of Aceves' death approaching, Weems said, it becomes clear how much domestic violence support services are needed in the community. Domestic violence is interconnected to every other social issue we face, Weems said.

"It's not merely about getting them out of a violent situation. It's the dominoes that fall," Weems said, "like the housing and childcare and having to uproot your whole family to keep them safe. It takes a whole community to provide that support."

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