Next Wednesday, men, women and children will stroll down Main Street with a common goal: to end domestic and sexual violence in Concord and around Merrimack County.
Some of the aforementioned men will take part in the fourth annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes in some brightly colored high heels, struggling to stay upright and not twist an ankle. It can be quite hilarious to watch, but you don’t have to wear heels, flats or any other kind of women’s shoes to take part. The important piece is to be there and help to raise critical funds and bring awareness to what the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire does for those who are a victim of domestic and/or sexual violence.
The walk is the biggest fundraiser for the Crisis Center, which brought in about $50,000 last year and has a goal to add another $60,000 to that total in 2017.
As of press time, more than $17,000 had been raised so far, but with about a week to go, the hope is to watch that number grow by leaps and bounds.
The Oct. 4 event begins at 4:30 p.m. with check-in and onsite registration at the arch in front of the State House – and yes, you can still sign up the day of the event. At 5:15 p.m., there will be opening remarks along with a survivors story from Tina Smith, owner of Bravo.
“It’s not just about raising money, because survivors are our friends, neighbors and people we interact with every day,” said Paula Kelley-Wall, Crisis Center executive director.
The walk begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by refreshments and team photos, as well as awards for the biggest team, team who raised the most money, individual who raised the most money and best shoes, and a 50/50 raffle.
“It’s about raising awareness about the cause,” Kelley-Wall said. “It’s about letting people know we’re here and that there’s help and support.”
Cost is $35 for adults, $10 for children age 5 to 17 and free for 5 and under.
Now you might be wondering what all those fundraising dollars go toward. Well, the answer is a lot.
If you’re not familiar with the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, this organization has a lot of moving pieces that require funds to keep it going.
“All of the funding we do have, all of it goes right back to our programs,” Kelley-Wall said.
The center has been serving Merrimack County since 1978. They provide services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking and child abuse.
One of the main things the center provides is an emergency shelter for women and children in Concord. The exact location of the shelter cannot be disclosed because of safety and privacy concerns, but we can tell you its the only one of its kind in Merrimack County. The shelter has four bedrooms and can accommodate up to 13 women and children, and currently there are 11 staying there.
“Generally the people that are at the shelter are fleeing physical danger,” Kelley-Wall said.
The average stay is five to six months, but it can be as short as a night or two, or as long as 18 months. And when families do leave, they take the essentials with them – pillows, blankets, towels and sometimes even furniture.
“We’re here to help set them up for success,” Kelley-Wall said.
Last year, they rotated in 20 different families, and turned away 300 people due to space limitations.
If there isn’t room at the emergency shelter, calls to other shelters around the state will be made to ensure people are safe. They have also been known to secure hotel rooms, buy gas cards, bus tickets or plane tickets so trips out of state can be made. They’ve even set up moves to places like Florida, Utah and Alaska before.
“We’re here as a resource, not as a ‘here is what you need to do,’ ” Kelley-Wall said.
Soon though, there will be more space to help women and children escape from threatening situations. Thanks to a Building on Hope award, the shelter will get a makeover in May that will expand it from four to seven bedrooms, with an adult retreat space, kids play area and just about any area of the building will be brand new. The business offices will also be moved to a new location.
But like any service organization, there are many layers to what the Crisis Center does. They have a 24-hour hotline that allows for those in need to speak with someone about their current situation.
“It could be an hourlong call or a five-minute call,” Kelley-Wall said. “We always have to be ready because you never know what to expect.”
The hotline is answered by the center’s staff during the day, and volunteers/advocates from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“A lot of what we do is help people figure out how to be safe in their homes,” Kelley-Wall said. “When something happens, how can we help them be safe.”
They offer hospital support for sexual assault victims, and will go to courts in Merrimack County to help with filing paperwork. The most important thing to note is that the folks at the Crisis Center are there for support and as a resource, but it’s up to the individual on the other end of the phone to decide what is the next best step for them.
“We’re connecting with victims right away,” Kelley-Wall said.
Education is also a big part of what the center does, holding 200 sessions last year at businesses, colleges, events, churches and organizations.
If you are experiencing issues involving domestic or sexual violence, there is always someone there to help. You can call the 24-hour hotline at 866-841-6229 or the center’s office number is 225-7376.
You can also visit cccnh.org for more.