Success has many faces

The success stories from Mary & Martha House are possible through a team effort of caring staff members and community involvement. Above from left are Denise Reiter, employment and housing director; LaurieHerring, programs and housing director; and Theresa Benitez, senior case manager. Chere Simmons photo.

The success stories from Mary & Martha House are possible through a team effort of caring staff members and community involvement. Above from left are Denise Reiter, employment and housing director; LaurieHerring, programs and housing director; and Theresa Benitez, senior case manager. Chere Simmons photo.

By CHERE SIMMONS

Though it seems inconceivable that an abused woman would keep returning to the person causing her pain or controlling her life, studies have shown that two-thirds of battered women who leave their abusers go back within a year or two; it takes the average survivor five tries before she escapes for good. Leaving is a process. The majority of women who successfully leave an abuser, do it with the support of an outside agency or friend. 

The statistics above are staggering, but there’s good news, too — Mary & Martha House, an emergency shelter in South Hillsborough County, has a 96 percent success rate with families who have completed the two-phase program and are now in permanent housing and free of government assistance.

The success of Mary & Martha House clients is not theirs to celebrate alone. The truth is, when one of the shelter’s clients succeeds, the entire community succeeds.

Last year, 21 families found gainful employment at an average of $8.50 per hour. Based on a 40-hour work week, there was $371,280 in new money introduced into the local economy.

There were 16 families who earned an average of $12.28  per hour. Also based on a 40-hour work week, these families added $408,678 in new money into the local economy.

Aside from the new money reinvested in our communities, there is a decreased dependence on social programs and public assistance, which can relieve the tax burden on citizens.

The future is brighter for the children of these families. Without the stress of homelessness, abuse or heavy financial burdens, children thrive in school and in life.

Recap of the program

Mary & Martha House is a temporary emergency shelter for abused and homeless women and their children. Women are given individualized case management to assess their needs and barriers. This is Phase 1 of the two-phase bridge to the permanent housing program. During this period, clients actively seek jobs, receive job training, learn banking and budgeting, and develop or reestablish personal skills and resources.

Phase 2 involves transitioning to housing that is separate from the shelter. Families are still provided everything they need to successfully maintain their household at no charge.

Success in Phase 2 is achieved by securing a job, acquiring transportation, completing the save-and-grow program and obtaining permanent housing. A housing coordinator will work with families for up to six months after completing the program.

 Community support

Mary & Martha House relies on support from the community. Caring businesses, organizations and individuals are why the program has had success since its founding in 1982.

Many former clients have reentered the community as volunteers in various capacities.

Interns from universities such as USF, FSU, UF and other local colleges, public and private, serve at the shelter and thrift stores.

How can I help?

Support the shelter and programs financially. Utilize planned giving, endowments or periodic financial gifts.

Volunteer at the shelter, thrift shops or office. Any amount of time is appreciated. An hour a week of tutoring a student or mentoring a mother can change a life.

Help with general repairs and maintenance at the shelter and housing, IT support, auto mechanic skills, equipment repairs, etc.

Participate in fundraisers held throughout the year.

Donate items to the thrift stores.

Adopt-a-Room: Decorate and renovate an entire bedroom from top to bottom. The room can even be dedicated with a plaque in a business, individual or loved one’s name.

Sponsor a holiday: Contrary to popular belief, Christmas is not the neediest time of year. Needs are at their highest level during the back-to-school period. Call the shelter at 813-641-7027 to inquire about children in need of school supplies, clothing and shoes. Other holidays that are sometimes overlooked are Easter and Thanksgiving.

Immediate needs and opportunities

Playground equipment or swing set at one of the Phase 2 homes

New commercial washer and dryer pair for the shelter

Three new washer / dryer pairs for housing

Gift cards, preferably Walmart, which can be used for gas, food, clothing, etc.

Sponsors for fishing/golfing tournament and virtual sponsors for Christmas Coffee.

Upcoming events

• A Gift to Remember Christmas Coffee

O Holy Night starring Jeremy Rosado of American Idol. A musical rendition of the Christmas story. Tickets are $8 each. To be held at South Bay Church, Riverview.

Hook ’n’ Sink Golf and Fishing Tournament held at Little Harbor Resort in Ruskin, and Club Renaissance in Sun City Center. March 27-29, 2015. www.HooknSink.org.

Contact information

Mary & Martha House Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization. All proceeds from fundraisers, gifts, etc., benefit the shelter and its programs. Visit www.MaryMarthaHouse.org or call 813-641-7027 for more information.

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