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Class project aids Family Abuse Center

Nov. 30, 1999

By ASA PITTMAN

Contributor

Women and children fleeing abusive households have three Baylor students to thank for helping to provide them a refuge from violence.

Three Kappa Delta sorority sisters, Kristi Presley, a Houston senior, Caroline Eklund, a San Diego senior, and Michelle Graham, a Waxahachie junior, started a letter-writing campaign to benefit the Family Abuse Center of Waco.

The trio asked campaign participants to sign cards stating their awareness of domestic abuse and their support of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. The act -- federal legislation that allocates funding for family abuse agencies -- is due for reauthorization by Congress in 2000. For the campaign, the students will send the signed cards to Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco.

Edwards, who represents the 11th District of Texas, is also a leader in the House Appropriations Committee, which would approve federal funding for VAWA.

'We started the letter-writing campaign [Nov. 17], and we already have more than 400 signed cards,' Presley said.

Connections with the Family Abuse Center through Kappa Delta prompted the three women to start the campaign. Kappa Delta prepares meals for the center's residents every Wednesday while the women of the shelter take parenting classes.

'We couldn't run the center without volunteer help,' said Dinah Husbands, volunteer coordinator and intervention education specialist for the Family Abuse Center.

Created 14 years ago, the center provides counseling, shelter for battered women and their children, parenting classes for mothers and creative arts classes for children. The center serves six area counties and this year will provide shelter to approximately 865 women and children.

More than a community service project, the campaign to help the Family Abuse Center will also help the three Baylor students fulfill their academic goals. The three are in the same persuasion and communications class. They created the letter writing campaign in response to an assignment to persuade community members to effect a social change.

In addition to the letter writing campaign, the women also brought attention to their cause by distributing more than 2,000 purple ribbons on Baylor's campus during October, domestic abuse awareness month. The trio also sponsored a fund-raiser at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar, raising more than $1,000 for the center.

'A lot of the rural areas don't even know we exist,' Husbands said. 'We are grateful that the students chose to help us for their project.'

Domestic violence is a widespread problem in the United States. Every year in America, 5 million women are victims of domestic abuse. Last year, 116 women in Texas died as a result of domestic violence. Three of the 116 women were from the Waco area.

'The women that we shelter are literally running for their lives,' Husbands said. 'There are batterers in every level of society, regardless of income, education, religion or race.'