- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - For victims of domestic violence, life itself can be dark and dreary.

Escaping the violence and seeking shelter in a safe place is often a difficult thing to do, and for many of the women and children who find their way out, the secure confines of the Women’s Resource Center are waiting.

But when they pass through the doors, shouldn’t it be important that the surroundings that greet them are a little brighter than the darkness from which they came?

Although the shelter, which serves Raleigh, Fayette, Summers and Nicholas counties, has always provided its most important mission - a safe haven - up until recently, it hasn’t been the cheeriest of buildings.

Clients’ rooms are always bright and updated thanks to community sponsors, but common areas - the dining room, ladies’ lounge and children’s room - have been in need of a little TLC.

Recognizing that need, the shelter put out a call on social media, asking businesses to adopt the spaces. Answering the call were Billy and Sheri Bush of Ficon Bush Insurance Agency in Oak Hill, Sasha Cantley and Nancy Chambers of Tickety Boo Merchantile in Beckley and Hicks Electric and Money Matters Accounting.

The first room claimed was the children’s room as Hicks Electric and Money Matters Accounting got to work to make the area where children calling the shelter home gather to play, watch TV and socialize.

Dee Sizemore, WRC Public Relations and Fundraising Development coordinator, said the first thing done to the room was a fresh coat of paint. A large rainbow had previously been the room’s only wall art, but new, colorful decorations were added including a green tree with a quote reminding children to “be yourself.”

“Their idea was to make little corners so the kids could gather in particular places,” Sizemore said, explaining each area of the revamped room now has a specific theme. “They moved the furniture around to kind of give it that feel.”

A nice, inviting room is important, Sizemore said, as it provides children an opportunity to socialize with others who are in similar situations.

“The kids need to know they’re not alone and that what they’ve been through in their home, other children have been through in their homes,” she said.

The task of updating the dining room was undertaken by Ficon Bush.

Billy Bush said his wife Sheri was the driving force behind the project, which saw the room transform from “Brady Bunch gone bad” green to a bright cheerful yellow.

“Let me put it this way,” Bush said, “if you walked in here before, even though it was a dining room, you probably would have lost your appetite. This is the first room they go to in the morning and this paint brightens up the day. Hopefully it will brighten up a dim situation.”

The biggest undertaking of them all, however, was the ladies’ lounge, the space Sizemore said old furniture from the shelter went to live when it was no longer useful elsewhere.

Fortunately, Cantley and Chambers were in their element and up to the challenge of transforming the run down room into a “cozy, comfortable” living space.

Using a nice red couch - recently donated to the shelter - as a starting base, the women got to work, scavenging, repainting, recovering and removing old furniture and adding “new” furniture to the mix.

“We took curtains we found on sale and that’s what we did all of the fabric work with,” Chambers said, pointing to a freshly covered rocking chair and bulletin board featuring the same fabric.

“It was a 1970s picture - one of my Neville St. Market finds - but it had a good frame,” Cantley said. “As long as you’ve got good bones, you can do a lot with it.”

A TV, refrigerator and coffee pot were parts of the room the women left, but they replaced an unattractive kitchen cabinet with a nice, vintage cabinet and added a new rug to tie the room together.

Throughout the process, Chambers and Cantley kept the clients in mind and even spoke to them about what they would most like to see in the room.

“We definitely tried to do what they wanted us to do,” Cantley said.

“There are beautiful changes in here,” one client said, letting Cantley and Chambers know their work had paid off. “I’m happy. We like coming in here and resting a little bit. It’s great. I don’t mind staying here for a while.”

Shelter advocate Tina Nelson said the reactions have been similar in regard to all the rooms.

“They are so excited,” she said. “It was just dreary before, but they’ve made it homey.”

Sizemore said having common rooms that attract clients rather than drive them back into their rooms is important.

“Everybody has a different story,” she said. “They all come from a different situation and a lot of time, they won’t even know what their situation has been and what they’ve been through until they’ve been here for a while and a lot of times it’s these rooms and talking to each that that actually comes out.”

And when clients, driven from their home for the worst of reasons, is able to forget for just a moment where they are, Sizemore says she and volunteers are reminded of the importance of making the building look and feel like a home.

One of the women walked into the dining area and said, ‘Wow! This doesn’t look like a shelter,’” she said, choking on tears. “That’s the reason we do it though is the ladies.”


Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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