Kadner: Crisis Center needs Santa’s help
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org December 10, 2013 10:52PM
Updated: January 12, 2014 6:27AM
If Santa Claus is still putting together that famous list of his, he might want to consider helping some folks who most people don’t think about at this joyous time of year.
The Crisis Center for South Suburbia, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, needs about $12,000 by the end of the year to obtain $44,000 in matching grants for programs it offers free of charge.
Some of the money would go to children’s therapy — a program that provides trauma assessment, counseling and therapeutic intervention to help children who have been victims of, or witnessed, domestic abuse.
“My 10-year-old son, who is autistic, is getting counseling, not only to help him now but in the future,” said a mother who left her home with the child and came to the Crisis Center to escape “physical and verbal” abuse.
I agreed not to use her name because, like many women who come to the shelter seeking help, she still fears reprisals.
“My son has blossomed since we came here in August,” she told me. “He’s more outgoing, more protective of me and much more sensitive to the bullying of others.
“The other day I woke up all upset, and he said to me, ‘Mom, look into the windows of my soul. You have got to calm down. It’s not worth it.’ He would never have said anything like that before he was in therapy here.
“He’s going to school, and he’s a better student now, a better person. He had some incidents of people picking on him at school, wanting to fight, and instead of engaging in violence he reported the incidents to his teacher.
“That’s something he learned here. You don’t have to fight back. There are other ways of resolving problems.”
The boy’s mother told me she was concerned that by witnessing acts of violence in his home growing up and experiencing some beatings himself, he might grow up to become an abuser.
“I know that often happens, and I was very concerned,” she said. “But I’m not anymore. I can see the changes in him. He understands that’s not something he should ever do.”
The Crisis Center is being offered a challenge grant of up to $44,000 by the Greer Foundation of Alsip, an organization that invests in organizations throughout the Chicago area that ensure that children and teens receive education and treatment to live healthy, violence-free lives.
Edward Vega Sr., executive director of the Crisis Center in Tinley Park, said his organization has raised $32,000 to date but needs to raise $12,000 more by Dec. 31 to obtain the full grant.
That’s a tall order, what with many people already having donated to their favorite charities and straining the limits of their gift-buying budgets for the Christmas season.
In addition to money for licensed child therapists, some of the grant also would be used to finance the center’s Fresh Start Teen Dating Violence Prevention program.
Vega said a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Chicago area revealed that 16 percent of students reported they were hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the previous 12 months.
During 2013, Crisis Center officials made 81 presentations to 3,778 students in schools, youth programs, colleges and parent groups in the Southland on how to prevent domestic abuse.
Vega recalled making a presentation at a local high school when a teenage girl came up to him afterward to thank him for the talk and to say she didn’t have any problems. The girl, a junior, then explained to Vega how her boyfriend had purchased a cellphone for her use.
“She told me he was calling her about 20 to 25 times a day,” Vega said. “She didn’t understand that this wasn’t normal behavior. She didn’t realize he was probably using the cellphone to keep tabs on her, maybe even using it to track her location. After I pointed that out, she realized there was reason to be concerned.
“That’s why these programs are so important. It educates children and teachers how to spot not only victims of domestic violence, but potential cases that can be prevented.”
Vega said the Crisis Center is restricted by finances to doing one outreach program to each school a year, but the additional funding would allow its speakers to revisit some of those schools and talk to more students.
The center’s counseling and therapy program treated 68 children in 2013. Some of those were children who came to the shelter with parents for temporary housing, but others lived at home and came to the center for therapy.
Vega said the center’s outreach and education program begins with children in kindergarten.
“We obviously don’t talk about dating to those children, but we do talk about violence and bullying,” he said.
I understand people don’t want to think about this stuff at Christmas. On the other hand, the spirit of the season is supposed to emphasize actually helping people, not just gift buying.
The Crisis Center was launched nearly 30 years ago by some Southland women who realized that there was no local place to shelter women and children who were victims of domestic abuse. Since that time, thousands of women who had the courage to leave their homes have received assistance to rebuild their lives.
Dianne Masters, a former vice chairman of the Moraine Valley Community College Board, was one of those women who helped found the Crisis Center. She became a victim of domestic violence and was murdered in a conspiracy hatched by her husband.
You can make a donation to the Crisis Center at www.crisisctr.org. Click on “donate now” and enter “challenge” in the comments box. Or mail a donation to the center at P.O. Box 39, Tinley Park, IL 60477 - Attention Development Department.
I realize this is short notice, but this is a donation that would help people in your community.