For 17 years Guardian Family Services (GFS) has been a beacon of hope to individuals who have found themselves in abusive relationships. Rita Gower has been an advocate for domestic violence victims and the program director of the shelter since it was established in 2002.
Gower says GFS gets a reputation as being a "bunch of man haters." But, Gower explains it is not the case. In fact, this year, GFS has seen 253 adult female clients, 17 male clients and 90 children for a total bed nights of 2,634.
GFS has a 24-hour crisis line available day and night and staff is trained to make referrals to all local service agencies to handle any type of call. This year the hotline has received 930 calls.
Other statistics this year include 5,055 direct service hours to GFS' clients, 108 emergency orders of protection (for up to three weeks) and 78 plenary orders of protection (up to two years).
GFS receives funding from Illinois Attorney General's Victims of Crime Grant; Violence Against Women Act, through the Department of Justice; Illinois Department of Human Services; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Emergency Solutions Grant; Massac County United Way; Harrah's Casino; Joppa Baptist Church and Community Christian Church.
According to Gower, GFS receives revenue from various fundraisers as well as from donations from churches, businesses, community organizations and citizens.
There are five full-time employees and six part-time to provide services 24-hours a day.
Because the shelter is open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, the shelter needs a lot of items, including: paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, large size diapers, baby wipes and gift cards for gas.
Gower said there are little things people do not always think about, like women staying at the shelter who have school aged children. When children go to school and bring back school photos, often times the family does not have enough funds to purchase an expensive photo package. Gower said there have been times when GFS employees pitch in enough money to give to a child to buy something at a book fair.
Donations along with the funding are what keep GFS going. When women who have stayed at the shelter are ready to move out on their own, often times GFS is in need of furniture, such as beds. She said as long as mattresses are bug-free, GFS would be glad to accept them as well as microwaves.
"Our pantry is so low, we can use anything," said Gower.
Items GFS is in need of include: spaghetti sauce, pasta, vegetables, cooking oil, coffee, tea bags, Kool-Aid, canned Spaghetti O's, canned ravioli, chicken and dumplings and stews -- for the kiddos. Also cake and cookie mixes, canned frosting, ketchup, barbeque sauce, ranch dressing, cereal, pop tarts, fruit snacks, microwave popcorn and seasonings.
GFS is located at 117 W. 10th St., in Metropolis. For more information, call 618-524-4357 or to donate, send checks to Guardian Family Services, P.O. Box 742, 117 West 10th St., Metropolis, IL 62960.