Domestic violence affects one in every three women, according to a recent World Health Organization report. Think of your friends, sisters and mothers. Do you know someone?
On Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6:30 p.m., the Secure Area Family Environment (S.A.F.E.) Place center for domestic violence hosted their 30th anniversary benefit gala in Battle Creek. Over 300 guests attended to donate and listen to keynote speaker Steve Ford, son of former President Gerald Ford. With the help of psychology professor Edward Bujdos, the Alpha Chi Omega sorority chapter from Albion College helped host the event as part of their philanthropy.
“Tonight is all about one goal: to end domestic violence,” said George Jenkot, board president at S.A.F.E. place. “It’s simply unacceptable that this continues.”
S.A.F.E. Place provides service to roughly 16,000 clients per year. Of those clients, 52 percent are under age 16.
“It’s sad that this has gone on for so long, and I hope we don’t have to see another 30 years,” said Jennifer Fopma, executive director of S.A.F.E. Place. “That being said, tonight really shows how many people care about and support what we do.”
Donations and event ticket sales totaled to $25,000. The money will be used for bedroom renovations, supplies and other management costs.
After dinner, Steve Ford began his presentation. Ford spoke about not only his experience living as the son of the president, but also about his family’s history with abuse. Gerald Ford’s biological father was abusive towards his mother, Dorothy. She was able to get out of the situation and marry a different man, Gerald Ford Senior.
“This man truly invested in my father’s life,” said Ford. “I want people to see my story as a message of hope. If the president can escape from an abusive family, anyone can.”
Ford received a standing ovation.
“His speech was very eye-opening,” said Dana Sorensen, Birmingham senior and Alpha Chi Omega president. “It showed that domestic violence can affect any demographic.”
Alpha Chi Omega works with S.A.F.E. Place throughout the year to host events both on and off campus to raise money and awareness about domestic violence.
Some Alpha Chi Omega women take participation to the next level by getting more involved at S.A.F.E. Place. Anna Bickerstaff, Grosse Pointe senior, is a member of the board and Dara Barlett, Dexter senior, is an employee.
“I directly see how the violence affects women, so I’m glad I can get involved to try to make things better for them,” said Barlett.
S.A.F.E. Place provides assistance to women and children free of charge. They can be reached any time at 269-965-7233.
“We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Fopma. “We never turn anyone away.”
Photo by Alex Carey