SIERRA VISTA — It’s the place where those who have suffered unspeakable abuse go for the help and healing they deserve. But now, because of the reeling economy and the rising prices it has sparked, Lori’s Place — known as the nonprofit Cochise Family Advocacy Center Inc. — is asking the public’s help so the center can stay open and continue the work of assisting people escape their tragic situations.
Lori’s Place needs donations, now more than ever.
The facility, 214 E Tacoma St., helps victims of sexual and physical abuse — men, women and children — in three counties including Cochise, Graham and Greenlee. They also help abuse victims from Fort Huachuca who are older than 18, says director Anne Thrush.
But because of rising prices, donations and attendance at the center’s fundraisers have decreased over the last few months. That’s the lifeblood that helps keep the doors at Lori’s Place open, Thrush and her staff say.
“We are a nonprofit 501(C)(3) and what that means is we operate on money we receive from grants, donations and fundraisers,” Thrush said in her office Thursday, surrounded by her employees. “The problem we’re seeing right now with the economically difficult environment that we’re in, (is that) the prices are going up and people have less money because they’re spending more on day-to-day items.
“They don’t have the extra cash to donate to organizations such as ours. Even as far as fundraisers go, we’re just not getting the responses that you would normally expect. It’s just making it a lot more difficult for us in this business.”
Thrush explained that in a nonprofit like Lori’s Place, cash flow “ebbs and flows depending on what you’re doing to raise money.”
“Right now we just want to make sure that everyone knows that we are struggling, too,” Thrush said. “But every little bit helps. It all adds up and it all helps out.”
The center has victim advocates, therapists, and two sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) nurses on call. The facility is open five days a week, but someone is always on call, said victim advocate Joyce Keck.
Lori’s Place is a lot more than just a facility where an abuse victim comes in, talks to someone, and is on their way.
The staff here makes a gargantuan effort to make sure every victim is as comfortable as possible when they’re talking about some of the most painful moments of their lives.
While it sounds simple, victims are often provided with a snack, a cup of coffee, a soda, a glass of juice or anything else that will bring some relief during that moment when the person has to sit down and talk about their ordeal.
There is a room for children, for example, called The Brave Room. This is where a therapist sits with a child who has been through a horrific experience and that youngster is encouraged to talk about their situation.
The room, Thrush says, has blankets, quilts, stuffed animals and toys, objects a child can hold onto and feel more at ease with when when talking about their abuse.
“That’s tough for a child,” Thrush said. “They can go in there and take a blanket or a toy so they can feel a little bit better, they were brave because they told us their story.”
The center needs more of these items, Thrush says, as well as donations of snacks and drinks. Toilet paper and paper towels also are welcomed items, as are gift cards for grocery stores.
Some victims have escaped an abusive environment and have been left with nothing — not even a home, Thrush and Keck said. Lori’s Place tries to help these individuals with clothing, food and other items they need to start anew. The center works with other agencies to try and find housing for these people.
Other people travel long distances to talk with their therapists at Lori’s Place and they need gas money, said victim advocate Shamika Coleman.
“Donations of gas cards would be good so they can get to their therapy appointment,” Coleman said.
Many people who have been raped walk in with the clothes they were assaulted in, Thrush said. Lori’s Place provides them with undergarments and a change of clothes that they can go home in after their interviews because the center must keep the other clothing as evidence.
Donations of undergarments, shorts, leggings and generic T-shirts are needed, the staff said.
Some of the fundraisers the facility embarks on includes one called, “Got Sneakers?”
This entails bringing in sneakers that are new or gently used.
“We get a profit from that and the shoes go to someone in need,” Keck said.
Another fundraiser involves the Tree of Life at the facility, said Coleman and Thrush. The leaves on the tree and some acorns on it are made of brass. Anyone who makes a donation by purchasing a leaf will have their name or the name of a loved one engraved on the leaf. A favorite saying or a passage from a beloved book may also be engraved on the leaf, Thrush said.
“That person’s name will be here (at Lori’s Place) as long as we’re here,” Thrush said.
The fall, usually sometime in September, brings the facility’s annual Community Giveaway, a large garage sale of sorts that includes items placed on several tables outside the center. There are no price tags on any of the items, but the community is encouraged to make donations, Thrush said. All the items are donated and include anything and everything such as toys, shoes, clothes, kitchen appliances, TVs, lawn equipment and electronics, items for pets and decor for the home.
The items must be gently used and Lori’s Place is currently collecting these donations to have them in place for the September event, Thrush said.
The largest fundraiser underway now for Lori’s Place is called Lori’s Place Pampered Chef Party.
“That’s on our Facebook page,” Thrush said. “We’re in partnership with one of the (Pampered Chef) consultants in the area and we will get a percentage of every sale that’s made.”
Once $200 or more of the cooking and baking appliances are sold, Lori’s Place will begin getting a percentage of those sales, Thrush said.
The staff recently has been invited to speak at churches and even country clubs to talk about what Lori’s Place does.
Mardene Killebrew, a part-time victim advocate who started working at Lori’s Place this week, spoke to a group of women at a local country club and said the reception she received was overwhelming.
“I was grateful that they were listening and they want to help and want to give,” Killebrew said. “This is much more than just helping people experiencing trauma.”
One of the most important factors at Lori’s Place is that all services rendered to victims of abuse are free.
“We want to keep going strong because we really see the difference,” Thrush said. “Having us involved in these cases where people have been abused or assaulted and so forth, by the work that we do, the forensic interviews the we do, the sexual assault nurse exams that we do, all of that helps to have a stronger case and it really helps with the prosecution of these cases.
“In the meantime it’s a safe neutral environment where these folks can come and not feel intimidated or scared. We keep a very, very upbeat and happy environment here and clients come in, in the worst way. But by the time they leave, they are no longer crying. They often have a smile on their face and sometimes they’re even laughing with us.”
Many people in the community have no idea what happens at Lori’s Place, Thrush and her staff said.
“Most people don’t have to live with the kind of stuff that we see every day,” Thrush said. “It would be very shocking for the average person to learn and understand just how important having a place like this is. This kind of abuse happens a lot, a lot. And this is the only center that helps with that kind of abuse in three counties.
“Just know that we’re here to help you in the situations we’ve discussed,” Thrush added. “But in order for us to continue to do this, we do need the help from the community. We need them to participate in our fundraisers. We need them to continue to give donations. That’s what helps us.”
Anyone interested in donating money or items to Lori’s Place or is interested in volunteering is asked to call 520-515-4444.