Gainesville Daily Register

Local News

April 29, 2010

Abigail’s Arms finds site for new shelter

Gainesville — County and city officials, police officers and board and staff members of Abigail’s Arms gathered in a sunny field near Aspen Street Tuesday to see the site of a new family crisis shelter.

Abigail’s Arms Emergency Shelter will be the first of its kind in Cooke County.

The land to build the over 9,000 square foot facility was donated by Jess and Bernice Cason of Gainesville.

The shelter is expected to cost approximately $2 million.

Abigail’s Arms is well on its way to raising the funds required to build the shelter.

“With (the Cason’s gift) and others, along with existing assets, Abigail’s Arms-Cooke County Family Crisis Center has raised more than $388,000,” Shelter Project Manager Betty Kay Schlesinger said.

The shelter includes staff offices; secure space outside, a community room, bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchen and recreational space for up to 44 people.

The facility will also include space for a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program.

Schlesinger said having the SANE program onsite is especially important for victims of sexual assault.

“Currently, forensic interviews and SANE exams for victims and their children must be provided outside of Cooke County, further traumatizing the victim,” she said.

Staying closer to home and being in a secure environment will often help put sexual assault victims more at ease during their examinations, she added.

The Aspen Street location isn’t the first prospective site for the shelter.

In Nov. 2008, the city’s planning and zoning commission denied the agency a permit to build a shelter in the 1600 block of Rice Avenue citing a number of letters from homeowners many of who were against building the shelter near their neighborhood.

The Aspen location north of the First Assembly of God Church on U.S. Highway 82 is also close to a residential neighborhood and an apartment complex, but is a bit more isolated than the Rice Avenue location would have been.

For those who work with victims of violence, the shelter has been a long time coming.

The first domestic violence program was a crisis hotline created on June 20, 1983.

Volunteers took turns answering the phone in their homes and another line was added two years later.

Eventually, Cooke County Friends of the Family became the first local crisis center for victims of violent crime.

The agency continued to provide a hotline for violence victims and expanded to include other services including free counseling and referrals for clients.

In 2008, Friends of the Family merged with Abigail’s Arms to become Abigail’s Arms-Cooke County Family Crisis Center.

Today the organization is known as Abigail’s Arms.

According to an information packet provided by Schlesinger, the agency’s mission is to provide free, confidential services to residents of Cooke County who are victims of violent crime.

In addition, Abigail’s Arms accepts referrals from agencies in Montague County and works in collaboration with Grayson and Denton Counties.

The name Abigail’s Arms was inspired by the Biblical story of Abigail in 1st Samuel Ch. 25. In the story, Abigail, the wife of a wealthy landowner named Nabal is a brave and intelligent woman who intercedes to prevent David’s soldiers from taking revenge on her husband’s men.

Abigail’s Arms staff members and volunteers continue to work to raise funds for the shelter.

The organization in currently in the middle of an online auction fundraiser.

Supporters can log on to www.biddingforgood/abigailsarmsshelter from now until May 9 to bid on items including jewelry, trips, art, furniture, even a car.

The agency is also hosting Gainesville Lunch Life from 11:3O a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday in the First State Bank parking lot.

For a suggested donation of $10, Abigail’s Arms supporters can enjoy homemade chicken fajitas, trimmings and desserts.

Both fundraisers will help support efforts to build the shelter.

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