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OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Daily Real Estate News  |  September 15, 2009  |   Restoring Safety, Renewing Lives
“I have the most respect for women who have the courage to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and who know that there's hope for a new start in life,” says Marge Pruitt Clark, salesperson with Ken Meade Realty Inc. in Surprise, Ariz. “This truly overwhelms me.”

Inspired by women’s power to overcome the isolating and debilitating effects of domestic violence, Clark founded Eve's Place, a safe house for women and children.

Clark is one of 10 finalists for the Good Neighbor Awards, a grant program recognizing REALTORSŪ who make exceptional volunteer contributions to their communities. Each week, until the five winners are announced in November, we’ll bring you the story of one of these finalists.

Eve’s Place offers an escape hatch for women who have been trained to think there is no way out. “Part of the syndrome of domestic violence is that the abuser systematically denigrates the abused until she feels like she has no options. He might withhold money, keep her out of the job market, isolate her from friends,” making her believe she can’t survive without him, says Clark.

Founding Eve's Place

In 2005, there was no domestic violence shelter in Arizona’s Northwest Valley—a fast-growing community 35 minutes from Phoenix near Sun City.

For Clark—who has a 25-year history of advocating for women—that was simply unacceptable. She negotiated funding from the city of Surprise, Ariz., put together a volunteer board, and held countless fundraisers. In 2006, Clark opened Eve's Place in a small house with room for eight women.

Less than four years later, the organization has grown into to a 38-bed shelter that offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, professional counseling, daily support groups, and transitional housing. Residents get referrals for job training, employment, medical and mental health services, and transportation.

“I know women and children who would be dead without Marge."

In 2008, Eve's Place provided 155 women and 96 children with 5,335 bednights of shelter. Eve’s Place is one of the few shelters in Arizona that allows teenage sons to stay with their mothers and the only one that takes pets. Even now, the next-nearest shelter is 20 miles away.

The shelter is seeing a dramatic increase in demand even as state funding is being cut. For 2009, the shelter is on a pace to double last year’s bednights.

The stress of the current economy plays a role, but Clark is careful not to allow abusers to make excuses. “Unemployment doesn’t cause domestic violence,” says Clark. “But it makes it much harder for a woman to leave because she perceives her resources as even more slender. She thinks she can’t get a job and can’t support her kids. More women think they need to stay.”

For many women, the shelter is much more than just a place to sleep, it is a place to escape life-threatening danger. “I know women and children who would be dead without Marge,” says Velda King, who succeeded Clark as president of Eve's Place.

$67,000 A Month

Of the hundreds of women who have walked in to Eve’s Place for help, a few stick out in King’s mind. A woman who hadn’t left her home in 20 years and as a result of the abuse she endured, had no teeth. She borrowed a friend’s dentures to get the courage to leave. A homeless woman and her children who were living in the park and eating grass for survival. A woman who came in wrapped in only a towel.

Yet despite the desperate need, domestic violence is still a relatively hidden problem in most communities. “We fill a need that most people don't even know exists,” says King.

Without state funding, volunteers and contributions the doors at the shelter would close. “It costs at least $67,000 a month to keep our doors open,” says King.

Setting Up Shop

A major source of income is Eve's Treasures, a 6,000-square-foot thrift shop that is run entirely by volunteers and grosses $30,000 a month in sales. A second thrift shop opened in Phoenix this summer.

Clark served as Eve’s Place’s volunteer president and executive director until 2007, hiring and training all staff and volunteers and leading fundraising efforts that have enabled the organization to grow from an annual budget of $12,000 to almost $1 million.

Since she obtained a state grant that allowed her to hire a paid executive director, she has turned her energy toward public speaking, writing articles, and speaking out for the benefit of the victims. She has encouraged other professional women to join the board, including several from real estate agencies that have been large benefactors in terms of funds and volunteer time.

Her focus remains on the women who are looking for the opportunity to walk away from the abuse. “We all know someone who’s been a victim. Whether it’s our daughter, our niece, a neighbor, the person sitting next to you in church,” says Clark. “It’s every woman’s problem. That’s where our name came from.”

Of the 10 Good Neighbor finalists, five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their community projects and will be honored at the REALTORSŪ Conference & Expo in San Diego on November 14. The remaining five finalists will receive $2,500 grants for their cause. To learn about the other finalists, go to REALTOR.org/GNA.

The Good Neighbor Awards is supported by eNeighborhoods, Homes.com, and Lowe’s.

--Wilma Gonzalez

Contact Clark at margeclark@cox.net.
Learn more about Eve’s Place www.safetyatevesplace.org

Source: NAR

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