12/05/07 — Luminary project will help with new shelter

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Luminary project will help with new shelter

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on December 5, 2007 2:14 PM

Candles will be lit Dec. 22 in Wayne County not just to mark the way for Santa Claus, but also to support local victims of domestic violence.

And there is still time for residents all over the county to be part of the effort.

Leadership Wayne County's 2007-08 class is selling luminary kits as part of its class project to raise money to help the county create a new shelter for domestic violence victims.

Sean Hamilton, class president, said the group of local leaders decided on the shelter as a project almost as soon as they met for the first time in September and started talking about possibilities for the group's required service project.

About a year ago, the only women's domestic violence shelter in Wayne County closed, leaving local victims with nowhere locally to turn for shelter, Hamilton said.

Although support services still exist, women and children trying to escape have to be transported to other counties -- especially difficult during the holidays.

"We have been without a domestic violence shelter for over a year," he said. "We felt that was the greatest need in the county."

But the Leadership Wayne class hopes to be able to help change all that with the luminary project.

The $15 cost per luminary kit will go toward providing support for the local domestic violence shelter, allowing families to have a clean, safe place to turn when they leave an abusive home.

Among the projects the class hopes to accomplish are sprucing up the inside of the shelter and adding security and other features that will help keep victims safe, Hamilton said.

The luminary kits include everything a family or business would need to light the way for Santa -- luminaries are traditionally used to line driveways and streets on and around Christmas Eve so Santa can easily see his route from the air.

The luminary kits will include candles, white waxed luminary bags and enough sand to make 10 luminaries.

This year, however, Hamilton said, the bags of sand and candles will also be signs of hope for those who might be facing domestic violence or who might know someone who has been terrorized by an abuser.

The class is asking residents to light their luminaries on Dec. 22 as a sign for those who have battled their way back from domestic violence and those who are still fighting.

Hamilton said he and his fellow class members know that if seeing the lights and the support in the community gives even one woman the courage to escape and start a new life, the project will be worth the effort.

"We want them to know we are here, we care and we support them," he said.

But the Leadership Class cannot do it alone.

There are still a few days left to purchase the kits.

They will be sold this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. For more information, or to place an advance order, call the chamber of commerce at 734-2241.

Women who need confidential services such as crisis counseling, court advocacy and children's programs should contact the Wayne Uplift Resource Association at 736-1313. The hotline is open 24 hours a day and has bilingual volunteers.