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The Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter, based in Rogers, plays a critical role in helping victims of abuse and assault in Northwest Arkansas, but it needs help from the community in order to stay open.
“NWAWS is the only emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the four-county area (Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington) and is committed to providing assistance to these individuals according to each situation,” said outreach director Amber Lacewell. But needs have increased with the area’s population growth, which makes it difficult.
The shelter runs a hotline (1-800-775-9011 or 479-246-9999) that offers critical assistance, resources and screening for people who might need shelter, offers shelter for people who are being abused and their children if they do not have a safe place to go, advocates for clients and their children who need help rebuilding their lives or with legal problems and educates the community about their programs, as well as giving prevention education programs aimed at children and adolescents.
It was originally founded in 1986 as the Benton County Women’s Shelter, but change its name in 2009 to reflect that the agency serves people throughout the four-county area.
Another misconception, Lacewell said, is that the shelter is only for women. She says the shelter “serves the community, regardless of gender or other status” and that nearly half of the shelter’s residents each year are children.
The shelter has had many success stories through the years, and Lacewell shared one:
We often ask our clients for feedback about their experiences in shelter. One client who stayed with us last year shared the following (name is withheld for confidentiality): “I am genuinely grateful for all the support and encouragement I have received from all the advocates. They have helped me to believe that I do have the strength and courage to stay away from people that mean me no good and that I can do it on my own. I do have it in me to change my life and not let others determine my worth.”
This same woman had attempted leaving her abusive partner multiple times over 6-plus years, but kept returning to him because she saw so many barriers that she didn’t think it was possible for her to survive without relying on someone else. She is now living in a new area, with a new job, and for the first time in her life has her own apartment.
Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter Executive Director John McGee, with Merritt Royal and Jamie Faye, from last year’s FreshSTART gala, courtesy of 3W magazine.
Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter has a major fundraiser in October called FreshSTART, which features art by local artists, shelter residents and children as well as live music, wine and hors d’oeuvres. This year’s event will be Oct. 1 at the Grand at 117 in Rogers.
But the shelter needs help more immediately than that, Lovelace said.
“We are currently suffering from the effects of a low profile in the community over the last several years and with our increased demand for services, we are struggling to stay afloat,” she said, noting that the shelter is sometime confused with other similarly named organizations and that people don’t understand the full scope of the shelter’s reach. “We have a critical need for financial assistance to keep our doors open.”
To that end they have started a GoFundMe page, through which they are hoping to raise $150,000 by the end of June to allow the shelter to stay open.
As that page notes, “The problem is not that our expenses have been too high. We need your help because as we increased our capacity to meet the growing demand in our community, community support did not keep up.”
Lovelace said that in particular law enforcement referrals have increased in the last year because of Laura’s Law, which requires law enforcement officers to screen victims when they are called to domestic violence situations to evaluate the likelihood that the victim will be killed by an abuser.
In addition to monetary donations, the shelter accepts donations for its thrift store, located at 1622 S. 8th Street in Rogers (in the Southgate Shopping Center). Clients are given vouchers allowing them to shop the thrift store for needed items, with proceeds going back to the organization.
Individual volunteers are also needed and can learn more by emailing email@example.com or calling 479-246-0353 for more information. More information about current needs can be found on their website or Facebook page as well.
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