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Family Haven serves a vital need
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Forsyth County News

If you have lived in Forsyth County for much time, chances are you’re familiar with Family Haven, a temporary shelter that helps victims of domestic violence.

This fantastic organization truly does change lives. I have known about the nonprofit and have written about it several times in the past, but I had never seen the actual facility.

Friend and Family Haven board member Catherine Amos recently gave me a tour and introduced me to Millie Irizarry, executive director of the shelter.

What an impressive and delightful person Millie is. Learning about her past business experience and her entrance into the nonprofit world was interesting. As it seems with those who work with a nonprofit, her passion was obvious.

“I found that working in the nonprofit community and helping others is so rewarding, I absolutely love it,” Millie said.

To be in charge of a shelter certainly takes a special person, someone with business experience as well as an understanding and compassion for the population it serves. Millie possesses all of the requirements.

Like child abuse, domestic violence is something most of us don’t want to talk about and hope doesn’t exist. Sadly, it is prevalent among us.

In fact, did you know that every nine seconds a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten? I was surprised to learn that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings or rape combined.

It is such an awful statistic that every day, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Some studies suggest that 10 million children every year witness some form of domestic violence and that men who abuse their wives/girlfriends are twice as likely to do so if they were raised in homes where they witnessed abuse.

Just like with child abuse, we all really need to see this as a societal problem.

Most of us don’t fully understand domestic violence. How can a woman stay in a relationship when she is being abused? Why do women take these men back and put up with the abuse often for years before they finally seek help? Isn’t it usually poor, uneducated women who are in abusive relationships?

Millie was more than willing to answer my questions and put to rest the misconceptions. “Domestic violence crosses every culture and economic lines; it has to do with a woman’s self esteem and other factors, and most of us know someone who is affected,” she said. “If a woman is here, the abuse has probably been going on quite awhile. The abuser typically knows what buttons to push, especially when there are children involved.”

Family Haven offers immediate support to women and their children. They provide educational programs, counseling and of course shelter.

I was also interested to learn that they have a transitional housing program so a woman can remain in the program after the initial first phase. The shelter itself is home-like and welcoming, and it made me think how blessed we are to have such a facility in our community.

So are you wondering how you can help Family Haven as it continues on its mission to serve these women and children?

First of all, please visit their thrift store on Veterans Memorial Boulevard. It is clean and well organized and I have found many great bargains there. They are always accepting donations, so go ahead and clean out your closet, basement and attic.

Millie said they are also always in need of volunteers to work at the thrift store. Perhaps your Sunday school class or a group of neighbors could help.

The shelter also needs volunteers — especially if you have a gift for teaching life skills, such as banking or cooking. Of course if you want to work directly with residents, there is a screening process and some training.

As with all shelters, Family Haven has an ongoing need for donations, everything from typical pantry and household items, to gently used clothing for women and children. Remember that many of these women arrive at the shelter with the clothes on their backs.

The same applies to their sweet children who will quickly be enrolled in school. Most of us could easily fill a bag or two with clothes from our closets. The same goes for picking up a few extra items from the grocery store.

Another way you can help is by supporting Family Haven’s biggest fundraiser, a party with live music at the Reid Barn on May 3.

This “Back to Woodstock” event has music by Last Five Standing Band and heavy hors d’oeuvres by Tam’s Backstage. Tickets are $25 each.

I just bought our tickets and cannot wait to attend. Won’t you join me in supporting Family Haven and all of their efforts to prevent domestic violence?

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at