The DIVAS women’s professional development group met on Friday, July 20, to learn about local nonprofit organizations. 

The Haven

Carrie Hulsey informed attendees about Buffalo and Dallas County’s need for pregnancy, childbirth and baby resources. One of The Haven’s main services is providing a diaper bank. Last year it distributed 5,100 diapers. In addition to diapers, The Haven now also distributes feminine hygiene products. 

Hulsey is the only person in the county who can provide childbirth education, which she said is greatly needed. Women learn about birth methods as well as local hospital procedures so there are no undue surprises during childbirth. 

Supervising child visitation is the most stressful part of her job, Hulsey said. However, she is also the only person in Dallas County who can supervise visitations. At baby fairs put on by The Haven, mothers and mothers-to-be can learn about all the resources available to them.

The Haven, currently above Buffalo City Hall, is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

House of Hope

Heather Bauer said in 2003, House of Hope served 79 survivors of domestic violence. The number increased to 599 survivors in 2008 and the agency provided 9,527 “safe bed nights” for people fleeing domestic violence in 2017. 

The Bolivar-based organization has an outreach office in Dallas County, and serves a total of seven counties, from Dadeville and Osceola to Buffalo and east, Bauer said. They run an 18-bed shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, a thrift store and support groups. People often come with only the clothes on their backs, so the organization gives $25 worth of “decision dollars” for survivors to spend in the thrift store. 

Doing things like cleaning the kitchen or attending a support group earns more decision dollars. Buffalo holds a twice monthly support group for anyone affected by domestic violence. Free childcare is available and sometimes provided by Buffalo Girl Scouts.

The local Girl Scouts also collect stuffed animals and turn them into weighted, calming stuffed animals for children affected by domestic violence. The weight has an incredible soothing effect on children, Bauer said. House of Hope is now working to get gas vouchers to enable survivors to stay at the shelter and afford to commute back and forth to existing jobs, she said. 

The organization always seeks volunteers in addition to thrift store donations. The shelter is essentially a big house, Bauer said. Anything someone would buy at the store, like toothpaste or paper towels, House of Hope also needs. Cooking is sometimes a trigger for survivors, she said. Their exes may have said the food was never good enough. 

Kids who stay at the house may be used to eating cereal and milk for every meal because mom cannot bring herself to cook. They teach women the confidence and children the skills for basic, healthily cooking. 

On Angel’s Wings

With other volunteers, Laci Holland provides free professional photography for children with a terminal diagnosis, from maternity to 18 years old. The volunteer photographers are on call 24/7, ready to go when a hospital calls with a family in need of recording a memory of a loved one.

The five-year-old organization not only provides tangible memories of little loved ones, but also advocates for families while making health care decisions. The group continues to follow up with families by hosting memorial events for the children who have died and celebration parties for those who survive and graduate from neonatal intensive care. 

Holland also talked about “rainbow babies.” Rainbow babies are born after a family has lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. The organization has support for families as they heal from the loss and transition to new family life, along with its accompanying emotions. 

Volunteer seamstresses use donated wedding dresses to make angel gowns for families who need funeral gowns. Some crochet and knit baby blankets and hats for newborn babies, while yet others deliver care packages and other will help serve dinner at the Ronald McDonald House.

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