This past year, nonprofit organization No One Alone served 1,704 clients affected by domestic violence or 40 percent more people compared to 2020. Of the 102 people that its shelter housed, the average guest stayed 30 days, and 30 people were housed in hotels due to lack of space.
These statistics show the need for organizations like NOA, which serves family violence victims in Dawson and Lumpkin counties. NOA’s 24/7 crisis line can be reached at 706-864-1986.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States.
No One Alone will host a collaborative meeting with Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard this Thursday, Oct. 13. The event starts at noon and will be held in the Lumpkin County Park and Recreation building, located at 365 Riley Road.
Attendees will learn about local services for domestic violence victims and area violence prevention efforts.
NOA will have a booth at Gold Rush in Dahlonega this coming weekend and hopes to have a presence at the Mountain Moonshine Festival next year, said NOA Executive Director Cara Ledford.
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The nonprofit’s crisis line was started in 1986, with its shelter opening in 1992. Last year, NOA advocates responded to 3,289 calls to its crisis line.
The line is staffed 24/7 with trained advocates that are ready to offer support and services to anybody that may need them, said NOA victim’s advocate Victoria Dunston.
After initial contact, a client is referred to the advocate who can best assist, and appointments are made in Dawson or Lumpkin County, depending where is most convenient for the client, Dunston added.
“The shelter is located in Dahlonega, but it does serve our Dawson County clients,” said Dunston, “and because of the McKinney-Vento Act, they (children) can still go to school in Dawson County.”
NOA’s services include individual and group counseling, case management, legal advocacy on matters like protective orders, children’s programs and play therapy, home visits, budgeting assistance, life skills and parenting classes.
With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NOA helped people out financially by giving a total of $194,919 in client aid, Ledford said.
There is also a Dahlonega-based bargain shop run by the nonprofit called Southern Finds. In 2021, Southern Finds provided direct client assistance of furniture, clothing and household items to 287 “at-risk” families.
This past year, Dunston has been partnering with area schools and the University of North Georgia to educate students about dating violence.
Women aged 16-24 are at the highest risk of being abused by a partner, and one in three high school students will experience some form of abuse in a relationship, according to statistics Dunston shared.
As of 2021, Georgia is ranked third in the nation for teen dating violence.
Dunston explained she presents to students in grades 2-12, with each talk tailored to be age appropriate.
For example, second graders might learn about when to say yes and when to say no if someone asks them to do something that makes them uncomfortable and who could be safe adults to talk to about those situations.
Then, high schooler talks may focus on dating violence, red flags, helping a friend and how to have a healthy relationship, Dunston said.
Prior to becoming third nationally for teen dating violence, Georgia was ranked first in 2016. Dunston in part credits efforts talking to teenagers about healthy relationships with helping reduce intimate partner violence.
“Our goal with talking to the students in age-appropriate ways will help build the foundation for them to have healthy relationships as adults and prevent them from experiencing domestic violence,” Dunston said. “In 2021, I presented to almost 2,000 students.”
NOA is also in the process of rebuilding its Dawson County Domestic Violence Task Force, whose meetings were impacted by the pandemic, Dunston said. The group meets every other month to discuss what needs or concerns are being seen in the community and how those can be best addressed.
The nonprofit is also working on engaging the area faith-based community and helping people there become trained how to help undocumented immigrants affected by domestic violence.
“Our main goal in 2022 is to talk with survivors about the barriers they face and find ways to remove those barriers as a community,” Dunston said.
Ledford added NOA is also planning on hosting a fashion show fundraiser in Dawsonville, most likely during spring 2023.
The nonprofit’s capital campaign for a new shelter is still in its beginning stages, Ledford said.
“NOA has been fortunate in that our current shelter is graciously donated by the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners,” Ledford wrote in an earlier open letter to the board. “While we are very thankful to have had this facility to call our shelter for over 20 years, we are bursting at the seams, as this shelter is a very small house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms to share between 12 women and children.”
Ledford wrote then that NOA envisions an “inviting shelter” with separate rooms for single women and women with children, as well as dedicated spaces for counseling and children’s, life skills and parenting programming.
Nonprofit officials will soon meet with architects before presenting shelter ideas to the community and longtime donors and supporters. NOA intends to raise $1 million for the project, Ledford added.
People can visit www.noonealone.org/shelter to learn how they can help.
“We are not only looking for monetary donations,” Ledford said, “but also things like grading, gravel, plumbing, etc. We could [also] pay for materials, and they could donate their time.”