CFMC Funds at Work: Desert Rose Foundation

Desert Rose Foundation Helping Women Stop Cycle of Domestic Violence

It’s hard to imagine we would ever find ourselves living each day in fear for our safety due to domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness, addiction, and more. However, an average of 20 people, both women and men, experience domestic violence every minute in the United States.  That equates to over 10 million abuse victims every year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline reports an American is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. Every 9 minutes, the victim is a child.

The Power and Control Cycle explains how women suffer (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually) in domestic violence situations. The cycle can happen hundreds of times in an abusive relationship.

The Desert Rose Foundation has been the only 24-hour crisis shelter and hotline in Morgan County for women (and children) fleeing from domestic violence and sexual assault since 2005. With trained crisis staff answering the phone 24/7, individuals call to seek emergency shelter, counseling and other resources.

Shame and fear often keep women from calling for help.

“Domestic violence is one of the most under reported crimes. It’s something society has kind of hidden because people don’t want to talk about it. Families are embarrassed when it happens to them. It really has a negative impact on everyone involved,” said Marsha MacPhee-Webster, Executive Director of Desert Rose Foundation and a domestic violence survivor.

It takes quite a bit of money to keep a shelter operating all day and night. Desert Rose reached out to the Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) and the Kendrick Foundation in 2010 to set up an endowment fund and apply for a grant. An endowment provides a continual source of annual income rather than relying on the success of fundraising activities. The Kendrick Grant allows Desert Rose to continue offering the necessary crisis intervention and counseling services.

In addition, CFMC handles all administrative work of fund management so Marsha and her staff can focus on individuals seeking shelter, counseling, and the opportunity to transform their lives for the better.

In 2018, Desert Rose provided shelter and services to 247 individuals and children. Overall, there were 2,975 shelter nights reported last year. A shelter night is counted for every person sleeping in the shelter. Almost 300 calls from women escaping abuse and seeking emergency shelter or other resources were made to the 24-hour hotline.

Emergency shelter and services available at Desert Rose.

Desert Rose provides 30-day emergency shelter with a transitional program available for women who qualify. In the first 30 days, staff and clients work together to address critical needs so women can sustain themselves. If a client completes the 30 days successfully, she can enter into the transitional program and stay in the shelter anywhere from one to two years.

When a woman calls for help at Desert Rose, she provides information so a crisis report can be completed. The information gathered helps staff determine what’s high priority for the caller, whether it’s creating a safety plan, getting into a shelter, seeking treatment for addiction, and more. If shelter space is available, the caller is asked to come into the shelter the same day if possible. It is efforts like this which provide women with a safe place to stay away from their abuser.

“As a victim, you feel trapped with no options for leaving. You’re isolated from family, friends, the world with no access to a phone or vehicle. You live in constant fear for your life and your children’s lives,” Marsha said. “That spirit of fear is very overwhelming. When I finally made my break, I was still terrified of seeing my abuser. I hid, changed my name, and moved to a different city.”

MacPhee-Webster was married with two children when she was abused by her ex-husband. They lived in a rural area where she had no access to a vehicle and didn’t know her neighbors. She couldn’t work because he wouldn’t allow it. The physical and psychological trauma she endured resulted in sleepless nights as he would drag her out of bed by her hair, push her up against the wall, put a gun to her head and threaten to kill their children.

After a long period of abuse, Marsha’s newfound faith and relationship with God led to answered prayer as she and her children were eventually able to safely leave the house. Her abuser suffered psychological problems and he was hospitalized for a period of time. One of his doctors strongly encouraged Marsha to leave by telling her, “Your (ex) husband is quite capable of killing you and your children.”

After changing her name, moving to a new city, and getting a job, Marsha and her children were able to turn their lives around for the better. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a lifelong process.

Healing from domestic violence is a lifelong process.

“But, God had a plan for me and my children. I didn’t talk about the abuse for a long time. It wasn’t until I went back to school and took different psychology classes when I realized I had a lot of stuff to deal with. I prayed about it and knew I had to start Desert Rose because I didn’t want anybody else to go through that, like hiding in the woods when it was cold and dark just to stay alive. I saw Morgan County didn’t have resources and we desperately needed a shelter,” Marsha added.

Desert Rose has a fundraiser every Mother’s Day weekend by selling beautiful flower baskets. All proceeds help Desert Rose continue providing shelter and services to women in need.

The shelter can house up to 40 individuals, including children. Each client has their own room (with bed and bathroom) with a secured door. They also have access to a kitchen, dining area, living room, laundry room, as well as a playroom for kids.

Women receive counseling, learn life skills, and find hope at Desert Rose.

Desert Rose is a structured environment where women are required to participate in daily meetings, complete household chores, attend weekly counseling sessions, get a job, adhere to curfews and more. The program is designed to help women take care of themselves by teaching them how to find a job, a place to live and developing life skills such as cleaning, cooking, budgeting, parenting, and more.

The name Desert Rose comes from the Bible verse Isaiah 35:1 which says, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them. And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; even with joy and singing.” This verse illustrates the principles of strength, hope and restoration – all of which women need to overcome domestic violence or sexual assault.

Since the shelter opened, many women have found safety, hope, peace, healing and restoration within the walls of Desert Rose. “I can go into a store and hear someone say “Hey! I know you. I was at Desert Rose. I just wanted you to know I’m doing great. Thank you,” said Marsha. “I’m so blessed when I hear their stories.”

You can help Desert Rose continue offering safety, counseling, and the opportunity for a better life to women experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault by donating to its CFMC Endowment Fund. Go to www.cfmconline.org and donate today. Every dollar counts and is life changing.

CFMC’s mission is to connect donors and their charitable giving with our evolving community needs in order to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations through impact grant making. The vision of CFMC is to be the philanthropic leader and a catalyst in order to maximize available resources in our community.

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