By Jill I. Solimini, Enquirer contributor
One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
Centers such as the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter of Warren County (ARCS) provide a safe haven for these victims, and the centers count on the support of volunteers like Lynne and Bill Wilkinson.
ARCS provides sheltered families with a safe place to live while they make important decisions about their futures. Each resident works to set directions and goals that meet their individual needs and circumstances. ARCS helps them find a new place to live, but it does not furnish the home.
That’s where Lynne and Bill come in.
The Wilkinsons’ story is simple. When Lynne and Bill moved to Mason 10 years ago, they tried to donate their used couches to the shelter but were told about a resident who had recently moved out and would be able to use them. They offered to use their truck to deliver the couches directly to her apartment. This experience opened their eyes to an enormous need that they now fill through the organization they created, The Gracious Giving Network.
“These women are starting from scratch,” Bill says. “Often times they have had to leave in a hurry and must leave everything behind.”
“At first, we really didn’t understand their situation,” Lynne says. “When we brought the couches to the apartment that day, the woman was so thankful that she and her son would not have to sleep on the floor anymore. My first thought was, ‘We can do better than this.’ ”
Lynne and Bill typed up a flier asking for donations and passed it out in their neighborhood. They were overwhelmed with the response and were thrilled to receive enough furnishings for two full apartments. With the help of some neighbors, they were able to fully furnish that first family’s apartment.
“Not only were we helping this woman,’’ Lynne recalls, “we were recycling items that people did not want anymore.”
Time and time again, Lynne has heard people say they want to donate things, but they don’t know where to give them, or they want to know where their things are going.
And over time, many of these people have become part of the network of donors that Lynne and Bill turn to when a woman is ready to move out on her own. Through word of mouth, the list has grown to include more than 250 donor families.
Ten years ago, an old set of couches set off a chance encounter that led the Wilkinsons down this path. Today, it is simply a part of their life.