Lau­rel House shel­ter seeks school sup­plies

The Phoenix - - FIT FOR LIFE - By M. English

EAST NOR­RI­TON » The scores of women and chil­dren who show up at Lau­rel House’s do­mes­tic vi­o­lence shel­ter are typ­i­cally dis­ori­ented and fright­ened. They’ve left home in a hurry — fre­quently with noth­ing more than the clothes they’re wear­ing. Sta­ples as di­verse as di­a­pers and tooth­brushes were for­got­ten in the frenzy of seek­ing safety be­cause — as these vic­tims know all too well — pri­or­i­ties shift when you’re run­ning for your life.

Lau­rel House main­tains a wide-rang­ing “wish list,” and school sup­plies are among the items the non­profit agency needs on an on­go­ing ba­sis. That in­cludes ev­ery­thing from glue sticks, mark­ers and note­books to the ear­buds re­quired for con­tem­po­rary class­room com­put­ers … lit­tle things turned huge for a kid whose world has spun out of con­trol.

“Lau­rel House is a com­pre­hen­sive do­mes­tic vi­o­lence agency serv­ing all of Mont­gomery County,” Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Beth Stur­man says. “The Safe Haven Shel­ter is a nine-bed­room house which, on any given day, may be home to up to 27 women and chil­dren who come to the shel­ter due to be­ing un­safe in their homes. As in any other home with chil­dren, ‘back-to-school’ is an ex­cit­ing time. For chil­dren liv­ing in the Lau­rel House shel­ter, this may very well mean start­ing in a new school with all new class­mates, a new bus route and none of their fa­mil­iar school sup­plies from pre­vi­ous years.

“Fam­i­lies come to the shel­ter all year round and, of­ten, with lit­tle but the clothes on their backs. Start­ing at a new school can hap­pen at any time of the year for these chil­dren, and the need for new school sup­plies at Lau­rel House hap­pens through­out the year as well.”

Pro­vid­ing them with the class­room tools they’ve left be­hind helps al­le­vi­ate the fragility and vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the shel­ter’s youngest vic­tims.

“The chil­dren’s pro­gram ad­vo­cate at the shel­ter works closely with moms to make sure that their chil­dren are en­rolled in school quickly and have what­ever school uni­form may be re­quired as well as all needed school sup­plies,” Stur­man says. “It’s re­as­sur­ing for a child to know that while they may be ‘the new kid’ in school, and while other parts of their life may be in dis­ar­ray, they have the right items in their age-ap­pro­pri­ate back­pack so that they fit in with their class­mates as eas­ily as pos­si­ble.”

School sup­plies are also needed for the chil­dren liv­ing in one of Lau­rel House’s seven “tran­si­tional hous­ing apart­ments” with their moth­ers.

“These chil­dren … as with the chil­dren in the shel­ter feel much more con­fi­dent head­ing off to school with the right sup­plies and a new back­pack,” Stur­man says.

The Lau­rel House school sup­plies wish list in­cludes back­packs, thin dry erase mark­ers, sty­luses, ear­buds, plastic sand­wich bags and gal­lon bags, reg­u­lar and thick glue sticks, glue bot­tles, 3-inch binders (zip­pered and non-zip­pered), binder di­viders, col­ored pen­cils, pen­cil cases, mark­ers, white T-shirts, wide-ruled note­books, mar­bled note­books, plastic fold­ers with pock­ets (red, green, blue and yel­low), erasers and scis­sors

Lau­rel House was cre­ated as “an emer­gency shel­ter for women and chil­dren flee­ing an abu­sive home” in 1980. Nearly four decades later, the non­profit agency’s staffers and vol­un­teers serve hun­dreds of vic­tims across a broad de­mo­graphic spec­trum that cov­ers just about ev­ery so­cial and eco­nomic level.

“Lau­rel House pro­vides group and in­di­vid­ual coun­sel­ing in five lo­ca­tions through­out [Mont­gomery County], serv­ing over 200 peo­ple each year,” Stur­man says. “Lau­rel House’s Do­mes­tic Abuse Re­sponse Team (DART) re­sponds to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence emer­gen­cies in col­lab­o­ra­tion with law en­force­ment and med­i­cal per­son­nel around the clock and serves over 500 in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies each year. Many of the fam­i­lies served through our coun­sel­ing pro­gram, and our DART team find them­selves in need of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance due to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence even if they pre­vi­ously had been able to pro­vide for them­selves. School sup­plies and other items from the [Lau­rel House] wish list are shared be­tween pro­grams as needed and are al­ways much ap­pre­ci­ated by the fam­i­lies we serve.”

Lau­rel House’s main of­fice is lo­cated at 180 W. Ger­man­town Pike, East Nor­ri­ton, and the agency has satel­lite sites in North Wales, Pottstown and Bryn Mawr. For in­for­ma­tion or ap­point­ments, call 610-277-1860.

Lau­rel House also spon­sors Ni­cole’s Place (named for Ni­cole Rhoads Pep­pel­man, a mother of three who was killed by her ex-hus­band in 2015) in The Mar­ket­place at Hunt­ing­don Val­ley, 2064 County Line Road, Hunt­ing­don Val­ley. For in­for­ma­tion or ap­point­ments, call 267699-0200.

Up­com­ing ben­e­fits and spe­cial events in­clude Sept. 29’s Re­use, Repur­pose, Re­store a Life Fash­ion Show & Lun­cheon at PineCrest Coun­try Club in Lans­dale and Oct. 10’s Break­ing the Si­lence Lun­cheon at Green Val­ley Coun­try Club in Lafayette Hill.

Ac­cord­ing to Stur­man, the lat­ter will give par­tic­i­pants an op­por­tu­nity to “shop for life-sav­ing gifts for fam­i­lies that have been im­pacted by vi­o­lence and learn about the le­gal as­pects of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence as told first­hand by Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin Steele and at­tor­ney Kris­ten Fe­den.”

The agency’s free-stand­ing thrift shops — Mar­ian’s At­tic, 255 Town Cen­ter Road, King of Prus­sia (610337-3068) and Lau­rel’s Loft, 1801 N. Broad St., Lans­dale (215-368-6037) — are open year-round.

De­tails about at­tend­ing its events, con­tribut­ing to its wish lists or vol­un­teer­ing are avail­able at Lau­rel House’s main of­fice, 610-2771860 and lau­

To reach Lau­rel House’s 24/7 (365 days a year) emer­gency hot­line, call 1-800642-3150.

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