Graduate Student, Faculty Fundraiser Benefits Local Victim Services



Graduate Student, Faculty Fundraiser Benefits Local Victim Services

The Montgomery County Women’s Center and the Huntsville SAAFE House recently received proceeds from fundraising by the SHSU Criminal Justice Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and faculty members as a byproduct of some friendly competition.

By: Veronica Gonzalez/vgonzalez@shsu.edu

The Montgomery County Women’s Center and the Huntsville SAAFE House recently received proceeds from fundraising by the SHSU Criminal Justice Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and faculty members as a byproduct of some friendly competition.

William Wells, Criminal Justice Department Chair, approached members of GSO and suggested putting a team together to run in The Woodlands Marathon Relay in March and fundraise until the day of the event. There was immediate interest and teams were coordinated.

“Because we are all involved with criminal justice research, we decided we wanted to raise money for justice-oriented organizations,” said Alicia Jurek, a Ph.D. student and graduate research assistant. “Since most of the students live in Huntsville and most of the faculty live in Montgomery County, SAAFE House and Montgomery County Women's Center were obvious choices. Both organizations do important work in our communities by providing shelter and other services to victims of sexual assault and family violence.”

Both the SAAFE House and the Montgomery County Women’s Center have huge partnerships with the University and rely on it heavily. From organizations like GSO donating their time to help fundraise to donating their time to volunteer, both work closely to help place students in positions that will allow them to gain experience while filling the need for help. With Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in April, the aid, recognition, and promotion was welcomed enthusiastically.

“We are funded through government grants, but as we all know that only covers a small fraction of costs associated with housing multiple families at a time,” said Chasity Williams, community relations director for SAAFE House. “Through private donors and groups, we are able to continue growing the types of services we offer for our clients. What many people don’t realize is that one of the largest areas of clients comes from our outreach program.”

Their outreach program services individuals who don’t need immediate emergency housing, but have experienced abuse and are on the journey to healing. These clients have a safe place to stay, and have the opportunity to interact with their advocate on a weekly basis to grow and empower themselves in the process.

The graduate student team, “Ph.Dangerous,” comprised of Eric Cooke, Nicole Niebuhr, Joshua Shadwick, and Matthias Woeckener. The faculty team, "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor," included Drs. Brittany Hayes, Bill King, Erin Orrick, and Bill Wells. Members from both teams met in November 2017 to work out details and began fundraising through various outlets such as, selling team apparel, petitioning donations, hosting a bake sale, and utilizing YouCaring.com.

Ultimately, the graduate student team won the fundraising competition, with $1,554 for SAAFE House and $1,507 for the Women’s Center. The faculty team won the relay competition.

The Montgomery County Women’s Center will be using their funds to help renovate and upgrade the shelter kitchen. The SAAFE House will use their funds to help their client services team grow the services they offer. Dana Garcia, director of community relations at the Montgomery County Women’s Center said the fundraiser was unexpected, but welcomed and needed.

“It is immensely important for the community to financially support local victim services organizations as we are not state or federally funded,” she said. “United Way accounts for 11% of our budget so we rely heavily on individuals, businesses and corporations in the community as well as grants that we continually apply for to make up the remainder.”

Members of both sides have already talked about the possibility of making this an annual event.

“Many of the participants from this year are interested in competing again next year, and we are hoping that other SHSU organizations will join us,” Jurek said. “It was a very fun and rewarding experience.”

Both organizations are involved in organizing various outreach activities on campus during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. For more information on events, visit the SHSU SAAM Committee on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or call 936-294-3080.
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