Safe Alliance seeks volunteers

Volunteers from the Beard and Mustache Club helped build raised garden beds for Safe Alliance.
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Safe Alliance, a nonprofit organization that serves Mecklenburg County residents, is in need of volunteers to fill a variety of needs.  Safe Alliance offers an array of services that provide hope and healing to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Safe Alliance boasts a domestic violence shelter that can house up to 120 individuals every night.  The only shelter of its kind in the area, people struggling with an abusive relationship can come to the shelter or reach out through the shelter’s hotline.  While they are staying at The Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter, these victims receive counseling as well as assistance in finding housing, employment and childcare.  

Volunteers are critical to the operation of the Domestic Violence Shelter.  Every person who comes to the shelter – up to 120 individuals a night – receives meals, toiletries like laundry detergent and shampoo, and other necessities like diapers and wipes.  “We depend on the community a great deal to provide the things we need to get to our clients,” says Tennille Banner, Director of Volunteer Relations. A collection drive to support the needs of the clients Safe Alliance serves is an easy way to get involved.  You can find more information about hosting a collection drive as well as a list of current needs on Safe Alliance’s website.

Collecting necessities isn’t the only way to help at the Domestic Violence Shelter.  Organizing the supply mart, serving meals and providing childcare in order to allow parents to take part in support groups or other programming are all important roles filled by volunteers.  Even things like visiting the shelter and hosting a game or movie night for residents can be invaluable – anything that normalizes the residents’ experience at the shelter. “We never want people to feel less than or like they’re missing out on life because they’ve come to this point,” says Banner.

Volunteers work to provide the same experiences for shelter residents that you and I enjoy. Men for Change members and their families hosted a sports day and cookout for the residents.

Safe Alliance also offers legal help to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through their Victims Assistance program.  Attorneys who volunteer their time assist with legal representation when needed, but another important piece of the puzzle is court advocacy provided by volunteers who accompany the victim to court and provide support.

The Sexual Trauma Resource Center provides counseling and support groups for both victims of sexual violence and “secondary survivors,” family or close friends who have also been impacted by the experience of sexual violence.  Advocates help victims navigate their next steps and seek justice. They also work to help cover costs associated with property damage or medical treatment related to the assault. The Sexual Trauma Resource Center also works to bring awareness to issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault and educate the community on what to look for and how to help someone in need.

Volunteering with the Victims Assistance Program and the Sexual Trauma Resource Center requires more training, but for those willing to put in the time (about 40 hours), the roles volunteers fill in both spheres are invaluable.  When victims of domestic violence go to court to seek a protective order, they have to get up in front of the judge and make their case. “It’s actually really intimidating,” says Director of Volunteer Relations Tennille Banner, “especially if that abusive partner shows up in court.  They have the right to come, they may bring an attorney who pushes back while she’s seeking that order. It can be a really intimidating process, scary, hard to get through.” Trained court advocates not only assist victims with paperwork but provide crucial support through this difficult process.

Volunteers willing to train for an important role can also serve as a rape crisis companion.  “That’s a really important volunteer piece,” insists Banner. Rape crisis companions stay with sexual assault victims in the delicate time following the assault while they are examined medically and questioned by the police.  Oftentimes rape crisis counselors are present to support victims before their family or friends can be there.

For young professionals eager to find a place for philanthropy in their lives, Safe Alliance offers the Young Professionals Group.  Targeted at people in their twenties through forties, the dues-based group provides an opportunity for like-minded people to come together in a safe space where they can discuss issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.  The group combines awareness, networking and volunteering in a way that allows young professionals to be engaged with Safe Alliance in a hands-on way.

Safe Alliance also presents a variety of events every year to raise both awareness and funds for their mission.  On October 2, The Women Lawyers of Charlotte and the Women’s Physician Section of the Mecklenburg County Medical Society will present Fighting for Women with Fashion.  The always-fun event on CenterStage in NoDa will include a fashion show featuring models from the legal and medical professions and a high stakes auction. Tickets are available on Safe Alliance’s website; purchase by September 1 to get the “early bird” rate!

Verizon Wireless does a swimsuit collection drive each year to provide for the children at the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter.

Whether its hosting a collection drive for the Domestic Violence Shelter, training to be a rape crisis companion or attending Fighting for Women with Fashion, everyone can find a way to make a difference at Safe Alliance.  “It may be something that seems very small to that individual,” says Banner, “What may seem like not a big deal to you may be the biggest deal to us!”

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: