February is just around the corner which means that U Care is busy preparing for its 10th annual reverse drawing.
The local, private nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse will hold its traditional fundraiser Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center, and tickets are on sale now.
“The tickets are $100 each and that gets you a prime rib dinner for two and a chance at the $5,000 cash prize from the reverse drawing,” said Pam Gonzalez, director of U Care, adding that there will also be a silent auction featuring items such as a golf bag, a piano, designer handbags, and a variety of artwork; a penny auction; and live entertainment provided by local pageant queen Daciya Solice.
For U Care, an organization that relies solely on grants, contributions and a portion of the proceeds from The Beehive thrift stores, the reverse drawing is a very important fundraising opportunity, often helping them to keep their doors open.
“Last year, after expenses, we raised $24,000,” Gonzalez noted, calling the fundraiser “crucial” to U Care being able to provide its services. “We have to have this and the support of the community, especially now as the state keeps cutting our funding. We’re set to lose $10,000, and next year, unless things change, it’s expected to be $40,000 because they’re doing away with different programs and such.”
Gonzalez mentioned the marriage and divorce filing fees as an example, sharing that a portion of those fees was collected quarterly and split among the 100 shelters in the state to help victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. According to the U Care director, the state has cut back those fees which means that shelters like U Care will receive very little, if any, of this extra — and much looked forward to — assistance.
“We do get some proceeds from the (Beehive) thrift stores, but depending on the economy, they don’t make a big enough profit to give us a lot. They may give $10,000 but that doesn’t cover losing $40,000,” she said. “But our clients do get to shop there for free so the stores help in those ways too.”
Keeping their doors open is a must, according to Gonzalez, because the number of people needing help is increasing all the time.
“Funding is going down but the number of victims keeps on increasing,” she stressed. “We’ve already served 611 people since July 2013.” Previously, in 2012, the shelter helped a total of 2,791 people.
It’s a sad story that unfortunately doesn’t seem to change much as the years pass.
“The number of victims is increasing,” Gonzalez also said last year prior to U Care’s 2013 fundraiser. “Abuse has always been there, but I think it’s more out in the open now. People just don’t seem to care where it happens anymore. There are attacks in public, and we’ve seen a rise in attacks at the workplace. It seems like people are just becoming desensitized to their consciences or something.”
This year, Gonzalez pointed out that “we’re the only domestic violence and sexual abuse shelter in the county that’s certified by the state. We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, because we need to be here.”
“Domestic violence doesn’t always hit during the day,” she continued. “It’s nothing for us to get a call from a deputy saying that they’re bringing someone to us and it’s 2 a.m.”
It’s important for U Care to be available when victims are in need, not just of the organization’s services but also of the safety it provides.
“The safety part has to be addressed,” emphasized Gonzalez. “There’s a 75 percent chance that they (the victims) will be killed in the first 48 hours of being gone. When someone is in a fit of rage…when they’re coming for you, they’re coming for you. It can be very dangerous for victims to be at a neighbor’s house or with another family member because of that risk.”
Part of keeping its doors open and its services available means having the funding needed to take care of the U Care facility.
“Funds are used for emergencies services as well as keeping utilities paid and for upkeep,” Gonzalez shared. “The city gives us the building rent free but we still have to do the upkeep and repairs.”
And there’s more upkeep required than one might think.
“We have a high volume of traffic through here. The normal wear and tear on your house that takes ten years, we do every year. It’s just something all the time,” the U Care director noted, mentioning how the wind recently damaged the facility’s security fence. “That was something we weren’t planning on.”
U Care is also in need of another car, she added, to be used to pick up and transport victims.
As she looks ahead and anticipates future needs, Gonzalez is excited about the reverse drawing and is thankful for the community’s loyal support.
“All who coordinate and organize this are volunteers who give their time to do this,” she said, naming board members past and present, community members, and the Key and Beta Club members from the Sampson Early College High School who “have always volunteered and helped with tickets, serving people, cleaning-up.”
“They work really hard and it’s important to recognize those who give their time,” said Gonzalez. “We truly appreciate and need the community’s support. We strive to be good stewards of the funds given to us so that we can serve everyone who needs our help regardless of income, gender, or anything.”
For more information about U Care and their reverse drawing, call 596-0931 or find them on Facebook.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.