Ply­mouth vol­un­teer plants seeds of hope

The Colonial - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English

As Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Aware­ness Month gets un­der way, staffers at Lau­rel House — a Nor­ris­town­based non­profit that serves vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence — are hop­ing for good turnouts at their in­au­gu­ral Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Aware­ness Brunch in King of Prus­sia Oct. 7 and an­nual 5K Dash Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence in Up­per Gwynedd Oct. 21.

Some 350 run­ners and walk­ers signed on for the lat­ter last year, and or­ga­niz­ers are cross­ing their fin­gers for at least 400 this year.

On the other hand, the fewer par­tic­i­pants the bet­ter at the craft and cook­ing ses­sions vol­un­teer Joyce Blunt con­ducts at the Lau­rel House shel­ter — a safe house for abused women and their chil­dren — most Sun­days. The Ply­mouth woman has been show­ing the shel­ter’s young res­i­dents the ins-and-outs of ev­ery­thing from dec­o­rat-

ing note­books to mak­ing trea­sure boxes and per­son­al­ized door hang­ers for the past eight years. Of late, she’s added sim­ple cook­ing and bak­ing — choco­late chip cook­ies and EngOLVK PuIfin SL]]DV DrH guar­an­teed hits — to the mix.

Mon­day through Fri­day, Blunt is a sec­re­tary at 3KLODdHOSKLD’V KLgK-SrR­fiOH Bal­lard Spahr An­drews & ,ngHrVROO ODw firP. 6KH’V also the mother of two grown sons and the grand­mother of a 3-year-old grand­son and 1-year-old grand­daugh­ter. Ob­vi­ously, she knows a thing or two about car­ing for kids. But, the more girls and boys at her Sun­day ses­sions, “the more you re­al­ize just how many chil­dren are liv­ing through this hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion of do­mes­tic abuse.”

Even worse, of course, “all the peo­ple who can’t or won’t, for what­ever rea­son, es­cape to a safe place,” she adds. “The sta­tis­tics per­tain­ing to chil­dren in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sit­u­a­tions are stag­ger­ing. For ex­am­ple, 30 per­cent to 60 per­cent of per­pe­tra­tors of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence also abuse chil­dren in the house­hold.”

All of which keeps Blunt head­ing to the area shel­ter just about ev­ery week­end.

As a pub­lished needle­work de­signer, ex­pe­ri­enced weaver and am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­pher, she un­der- VWDndV WKH VHOI-FRn­fidHnFH and pride fos­tered by “some­thing you’ve cre­ated your­self.” Her Sun­day morn­ing cook­ing and bak­ing get-to­geth­ers have been equally suc­cess­ful, the oc­ca­sional mea­sur­ing mishap not­with­stand­ing.

As Blunt ex­plains in one Lau­rel House news­let­ter: “Re­cently … there were three sis­ters at the shel­ter who loved arts and crafts but also had a strong de­sire to learn how to cook. I love to cook — es­pe­cially bake — so I de­cided to switch up our arts and craft time to a kids cook­ing class. We would make choco­late chip cook­ies — from scratch, of course.

“Since I never know from week to week who will be at the shel­ter, I called ahead to FRn­firP WKDW WKH WKrHH gLrOV were still there and learned that not only were they still WKHrH, , KDd fivH PRrH kLdV [in] my cook­ing class, rang­ing in ages 4 to 12 … What was I get­ting my­self into?”

In the end, “the kids had a great time mak­ing the cook­ies and were re­ally H[FLWHd wKHn WKH firVW EDWFK came out of the oven,” Blunt con­tin­ues. “They were ab­so­lutely de­li­cious, and ev­ery­one had warm choco­late chip cook­ies for dessert at lunchtime.”

Her shel­ter bud­dies have also col­lab­o­rated on an­other Blunt in­no­va­tion — her per­son­al­ized “signin sheet.” At­ten­dees are en­cour­aged to trace their KDndV Dnd firVW nDPHV RnWR the table­cloths that cover their work space, giv­ing them “proof that they’re not alone … that lots of other kids have spent time at Lau­rel House and been in the same sit­u­a­tion they’re in.”

“At this point, we prob­a­bly have at least seven table­cloths,” Blunt says. “And Laura Mullen from the [Lau­rel House] Bridge pro­gram has made two of them into quilts for the shel­ter.”

She an­tic­i­pates Oc­to­ber will bring a higher than usual tally of new hands.

“It’s typ­i­cally our busi- est month be­cause of all the ex­tra pub­lic­ity about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.”

Like other Lau­rel House vol­un­teers and staffers, Blunt em­pha­sizes “do­mes­tic vi­o­lence can hap­pen to any­one, re­gard­less of age, gen­der, race, eth­nic­ity or so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus.”

“Last year in Penn­syl­va­nia alone, 166 peo­ple died as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence,” the Ply­mouth Meet­ing na­tive con­tin­ues. “Among the rea­sons I vol­un­teer at Lau­rel House … is the tragic loss of a friend and co-worker as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. It has been al­most 25 years since her death, but it is still hard for me to ac­cept that my friend was mur­dered by her hus­band in their own home.

“Her hus­band was an ex­ec­u­tive V.P. at a prom­i­nent bank in Miami. We had been to each other’s homes, at­tended events to­gether, shared sto­ries and laughs. We were friends. Over the years, she sus­tained mul­ti­ple in­juries but al­ways had a plau­si­ble ex­cuse. I never knew that she was a vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence un­til her death.”

Blunt is also a vol­un­teer with Lau­rel House’s Med­i­cal Ad­vo­cacy Pro­gram and as such “of­ten [vis­its] women in the hospi­tal as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, of­fer­ing sup­port, in­for­ma­tion and a car­ing hand.”

“There are so many ways peo­ple can help out,” she says. “And, be­lieve me, you ac­tu­ally get back a lot more than you give … just the feel­ing that you’re do­ing some­thing that could make an­other per­son’s life a lit­tle bit bet­ter. With the kids’ pro­gram, I think it goes back to the idea of plant­ing seeds of hope for them. Above all, we have a good time. It’s fun.”

In ad­di­tion to its shel­ter and Med­i­cal Ad­vo­cacy Pro­gram, Lau­rel House spon­sors tran­si­tional hous­ing, community coun­sel­ing and ed­u­ca­tion, le­gal ad­vo­cacy and a do­mes­tic abuse re­sponse team for law en­force­ment. To reach its 24-hour hot­line, call 1-800-642-3150.

In­for­ma­tion about any Lau­rel House pro­gram or event — in­clud­ing Oct. 7’s Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Aware­ness Brunch and Oct. 21’s 5K Dash — as well as the agency’s on­go­ing need for vol­un­teers is avail­able by call­ing 610-277-1860 or vis­it­ing www.lau­rel­

Photo cour­tesy of sub­ject

Lau­rel House vol­un­teer Joyce Blunt is a sec­re­tary at Philadel­phia’s Bal­lard Spahr An­drews & Ingersoll law firm.

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