by Jo Anne Pinto, MS Children’s Counselor, Against Abuse, Inc.

Do-gooder foodies have some place to be on Sunday, October 15, 2017 between 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. at Eva’s Fine Mexican Food for the 31st Annual “Taste of Casa Grande.” For 31 years, restaurants, concerned community members and the general public have come together to enjoy great food, good drink, and generous company – all while benefiting Pinal County’s own Against Abuse, Inc. (AAI). It is a big party for an important cause – and we hope you will come out to sample all of the wonderful cuisine that is situated right here in our own backyard!

Founded in 1981, Against Abuse, Inc. is one of Arizona’s most well-respected domestic violence agencies. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we serve victims of domestic violence and child abuse through shelter, legal advocacy, counseling, education, case management and a myriad of constantly evolving services designed to help victims become self-sufficient. AAI funds its programs through a combination of federal, state and corporate grants, as well as community events and individual giving. Like many small nonprofits, each year AAI pieces together funding for staff salaries and program materials in order to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. Here are a couple of examples of the impact of services for women and children:

1) 8-year-old “Johnny” returned to the shelter with his mother after a nine-month absence. His mother had several broken bones in her face and ribs, but it was little “Johnny” who remembered what he had learned in the children’s education group: When his mommy was getting hurt again he didn’t waste any time – he ran to the next door neighbor’s house and had her call 911. He was SO proud of himself!

2) We once took a crisis call from a young lady who was crying and upset. Staff could hear her husband yelling and cursing her in the background. When asked if she wanted us to call 911 she said “yes” and whispered the address. About an hour later she appeared at the shelter gate with her two children. The staff member who took the call introduced herself and the young lady “K” began to cry saying she was embarrassed. After she calmed down, they talked about her situation. She did not have time to get her work uniform or kid’s school uniforms out of the house when she left. She was also concerned because her in-law used to babysit the children and she was sure that assistance would no longer be available. Staff helped her organize what she needed to do, which started by calling her place of employment and asking for the next day off to take care of things. AAI assisted her with an order of protection and police escort to get her belongings out of the home. She then applied for alternative housing resources. AAI gave her childcare, transportation assistance and counseling. Her children finished school, she applied for and received more hours at work, and she was eventually approved to enter a transitional living program. Possibly the most exciting thing about “K” is that she took all of her counseling sessions and group lessons very seriously and she became a peer mentor for other women coming out of abusive situations!

Each dollar contributed goes a long way toward helping people in crisis regain hope, a sense of meaning and purpose to re-establish their lives. For example $5 pays for prescriptions, $10 helps get copies of birth certifcates/ID’s for housing, $20 can purchase work/school clothing or non-slip shoes needed for employment, $50 helps with transportation/relocation costs, etc.

Never forgotten are the innocent child victims in AAI services. To meet their needs, AAI has developed programming for children who have witnessed violence or suffered abuse themselves and we also teach teens about healthy relationships.

Photo by Casa Grande Dispatch