STEPS plans event to raise shelter funds

Published 11:32 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The first step in reopening Madeline’s House is finding out what kind of support it has in the area. That’s what STEPS Inc. is working on.

Since Madeline’s House closed last November, Virginia’s Heartland-Southside region has been without adequate resources for sexual and domestic violence survivors. STEPS, which currently serves as the Community Action Agency for Prince Edward and surrounding counties, has offered a helping hand to aid victims in the wake of Madeline’s House’s absence. 

The group plans to hold a Friends of Madeline’s House meeting for individuals interested in helping to build ongoing support for the shelter later this week. That’ll take place Thursday, September 28 from 6-7 p.m. at their corporate offices, located at 225 Industrial Park Road in Farmville. 

Plans for Madeline’s House

The shelter – which is gearing up to reopen later this year – will remain Madeline’s House but will offer more services than just physical safety for sexual and domestic violence survivors.
STEPS hopes and plans to implement other programs to aid the community to a larger extent, including a sexual assault response program with Centra Southside Community Hospital. They also plan on recruiting trained volunteers who will accompany women to the emergency room and provide moral and emotional support while the patients undergo examinations.
Furthermore, STEPS wants to raise prevention and education services in the region, as well as create their own hotline for individuals to reach them directly.

Where the project stands

Currently, STEPS is remodeling a home donated by Ellery and Robin Sedgwick to serve as the shelter. The donation is a big first step towards offering services, but only a step in the process. The building still needs a considerable amount of work before it can go into service, including appliances, electrical and plumbing upgrades, painting the walls, replacing the old heating and cooling units and repairing the roof.  

STEPS launched a campaign and is looking for community support to raise $150,000 for repairs, furnishing and operational costs. Virginia’s Department of Social Services has provided $25,000 to assist with funding a domestic violence/sexual assault victim services coordinator and a request has been made for nearly $950,000 for one year of program and shelter services to the Senate Appropriations Committee by Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Along with initial financial help, the shelter will need ongoing sponsorship and professional services from those able to help. 

Supporters can donate financially by visiting steps-inc.org/donate, texting STEPS to 26989, reaching out through Steps.harnessapp.com or by sending contributions to STEPS, Inc. 225 Industrial Park Road, Farmville, VA 23901.

STEPS moves forward 

STEPS needs more than funding for the project. Company officials say fostering community support is just as important, adding volunteers are desperately needed to help plan and help with fundraising projects and provide operational support.

“We need community support in order to move this initiative forward,” said Linda Ellis-Williams, Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for STEPS. “Please consider sharing your time, talents and treasures.”

STEPS has also scheduled an October 5 candlelight vigil at the Moton Museum, located at 900 Griffin Boulevard in Farmville, that will begin at 5:30 p.m. The event will honor victims suffering in silence and as a memorial for those who have lost their life due to domestic violence. All are invited to attend and share in this special program.

“When victims see community support, they are more likely to hold their abuser accountable and move forward with lives free of violence,” Ellis-Williams said. “The greater the support (attendance) the more powerful the message.”