Hello folks. At the beginning of last season, Jon and I decided to draw some attention to a few local organizations that assist survivors of domestic and sexual assault. After the Preds' season ended, I was contacted by one of the office assistants who does a few things for the Mary Parrish center. We got to exchanging emails, and grabbed some coffee.
Before I get to the interview, I do want to thank you for the support we've received over the past year even while covering some difficult topics. Also, give yourselves another big round of thanks for not having your head in the sand when it comes to the nature of these topics. I never want to turn a sports-centered community into a space for pure social issues, and this isn't that. This is a cause we can all get behind: helping people in need.
The Mary Parrish Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and provides transitional housing for survivors of domestic and sexual assault right here in Nashville. They provide rent-free housing for applicants for up to two years, and do it all discreetly and securely.
I'm never been great at asking folks to donate and such, but please do. Click here to go to their donate page.
Thanks for agreeing to meet with me. For someone who doesn't know about your center, what is a brief overview and the mission of the Mary Parrish Center?
The mission of The Mary Parrish Center (MPC) is to provide a therapeutic transitional housing program and a myriad of loving, comprehensive services that enable survivors of domestic & sexual violence to heal from their abuse, reclaim their autonomy, and reawaken their hopes and dreams. Our two-year program is completely cost free, enabling residents to focus all of their time and effort rebuilding their lives.
In addition to housing and privacy, what type of support do residents receive when they reside at the MPC?
It is our firm position that battered women’s experiences should inform and shape the services we offer. We therefore offer the widest range of services possible, which reflect the differences and individual needs of our residents. We offer the following, all of which significantly contribute to helping survivors' heal from their abuse: secure permanent housing, integrate into a community, clinical therapy (including 24 hour crisis phone support), on-site employment, job readiness training, counseling in economic independence, financial empowerment, mentoring, financial assistance, literacy training, child care and direct transportation services. A small sample of some of the requested personalized services we have provided are: cooking lessons, dating advice (including safe on-line dating), gardening, economical meal planning, ACT and English language tutoring, driving lessons, clothing selection and various enrichment activities in American culture for children. We know that long-term support is critical to survivors maintaining safer lives and we therefore offer all of our support services for an unlimited amount of time to our graduates.
Obviously, space is always going to be a concern. How many people do you have to turn away? And what's the reason those are turned away?
One of the hardest aspects of operating a program like ours is having to turn victims away. Unfortunately, it’s something we have to do every single day. We turn away over 100 victims every year. With only 11 one-bedroom apartments, we have limited availability and are only able to serve women with up to two children. It is a part of our renovation plan to add a second level with additional bedrooms so that we can serve larger families.
Abuse and assault aren't limited to any race, religion, region, or economic group. What does your center do to make sure everyone feels welcome?
We are proud to have been home to a very diverse group of women, including women from 13 different countries. We believe that nurturing each woman as an individual helps to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive spirit in our organization and amongst the residents themselves. To make sure that each family feels as welcome as possible when they move to The MPC, we decorate each apartment individually and with cultural sensitivity. And throughout residents’ time here, we host group enrichment activities such as concert outings and summer barbeques that aim to strengthen our community as a whole.
At long last, let's talk about some good stuff. Can you share an example of someone who benefited from the resources at the MPC?
We’re so proud to have had over 118 women successfully graduate from The MPC with newfound confidence to navigate their lives with dignity and strength. Our program’s success is best demonstrated through one of our former residents:
Marcia's abuser brought her to the US from a poor village in Brazil. He promised her a loving marriage. What he gave her instead was a life of extreme abuse and psychological torture. It was his attempt to force her into a sex trafficking ring that finally caused her to reach out for help. The abuse she endured was extreme and her healing process has been long and arduous. There were language barriers, cultural barriers, and legal challenges to overcome. It was her extraordinary determination to build a life of independence that made our work with her possible and her success inevitable. As an employee of our job training program, she significantly improved her English skills, increased her computer literacy, built her self-confidence, and acquired full-time employment. Additionally, she was able to add time in this program to her resume which helped her find employment. Marcia's dream was to become and US citizen and to own her own home. During her two years with us we were able to help her secure a Green Card and begin the long road of becoming a US citizen. With the help of one of our Board Members, who is also Vice President of a local bank, she was able to qualify for a mortgage. Today she is a proud homeowner.
Finally, what are the goals your group wants to accomplish in the near future?
It is an exciting time of growth at The MPC! Last September (2015), we were able to purchase our property, a major milestone achieved for any nonprofit. Therefore, as mentioned, over the next two years, we would like to renovate our property— adding a second floor to our apartments with two additional bedrooms in each unit, allowing us to serve victims with larger families. We are also planning to launch a social enterprise, La Presentosa, a 13-year plan in the making. La Presentosa, an artisan Italian market, will not only provide us with an alternative, sustainable revenue stream, but it will provide employment opportunities for our residents. 90% of our residents are unemployed when they arrive at The MPC; however, our current workforce development program does not have the capacity to serve all of the women in need, which is why we know La Presentosa will be so impactful.
If you feel led to do so, please donate by clicking here (and yes, donations are tax deductible). With the amount of daily traffic OnTheForecheck normally receives, we could fund most of their apartments for a year if everyone visiting donated $10. This will help the center grow to become more sustainable and be able to serve larger families. So let's aim high and try to help some people.