Volunteer Spotlight: Lacey and Donald

Volunteer Spotlight: Lacey and Donald

This past week, April 6-12, was National Volunteer Week!

While it is always important to recognize all that volunteers give to our organization, it’s wonderful to have a whole week dedicated to volunteer appreciation!

In 2013, 639 SafePlace volunteers gave their time, energy and support to domestic and sexual violence survivors. In honor of National Volunteer Week, two of our volunteers, Donald and Lacey, generously shared the story of how they came to SafePlace, and why volunteering here is something that anyone can do.

Lacey found SafePlace when she was researching volunteer opportunities, and Donald decided to tag along so they could spend the time together. They went through the 40 hour volunteer training more than a year ago, and although they began the training together, they have chosen to volunteer in different programs. Donald is a hospital advocate, on call for two to four shifts a month, and Lacey gives eight hours a month to grants research.

Becoming a hospital advocate sounded like an opportunity to bring positivity to someone’s life during a difficult time, and fit well with his professional goals—Donald, who wanted to work toward a helping career, is pursuing of a Master of Science in Nursing to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

But direct client care is not for everyone, and didn’t feel right for Lacey.

After meeting with Langa, our volunteer manager to talk through her options, and the different needs of the agency, Lacey realized researching grant opportunities would be a great use of her skills. She had found the way that she could help while also taking care of herself.

“If anyone is unsure, or just feeling on the fence about volunteering, there are a lot of different ways you can help,” Lacey says, and “There is a lot of support for volunteers here.”

The couple continue to find ways to give!  Donald and Lacey got married in March. Because their volunteer work at SafePlace has become such a big part of their lives, they wanted to find a way to include SafePlace in their wedding, and asked family and friends to donate to SafePlace in lieu of giving gifts.

March 2014

Photo Credit: Prima Luce Studios

Congratulations, Donald and Lacey! And thank you for all you have done and continue to do for SafePlace!

[If you’d like to share you experience as a SafePlace volunteer with us, please contact Communications Assistant Katey Gorski at KGorski@SafePlace.org.]

Information about volunteering

2014 Statesman Capital 10,000

2014 Statesman Capital 10,000
SafePlace and Statesman staff together on race day!

SafePlace and Statesman staff together on race day!

The Statesman Capital 10,000 is one of the biggest road races in Texas, and an Austin tradition. SafePlace was fortunate to be the exclusive beneficiary of this year’s race.

SafePlace staff enjoyed a birds-eye view of the event from the top of the Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing building (shown in picture above: Director of Development Candace Lopez and Executive Director Julia Spann). The day itself may have been gray, but Sunday’s rain didn’t stop more than 17,500 runners — or thousands more who showed up to cheer them on!

Runners lining up!

Runners lining up!

Every one of those 17,500 runners had a part in supporting essential SafePlace services, which helped 5,453 adults and children escape, heal, and recover from violent homes and relationships in 2013. “Being selected as a Cap 10K beneficiary is not only a great honor, but it also has a significant impact on our ability to meet the enormous need for SafePlace services in the Austin community,” explained Executive Director Julia Spann.

A big THANK YOU to the Austin American-Statesman for choosing SafePlace as the 2014 beneficiary, and to everyone who made donations to SafePlace through this event!  We are grateful to live, work, and serve in such a generous community.

Julia Spann and Candace Lopez accepting the donation

Julia Spann and Candace Lopez accepting the donation

Learn more about the Statesman Capital 10,000 here.

Thanks for Making Illuminate Austin a Success!

Thanks for Making Illuminate Austin a Success!

After months of planning and hard work, Illuminate Austin was a huge success! From the time we decided to bring the walk back after a six year hiatus, SafePlace staff have been saying that the walk is a visual representation of Austin’s support for domestic violence and sexual assault victims and survivors, their families, and for the work we do. Because it was the first year back, we set our goal at 500 attendees, and saw more than 800 people on the day!

We loved seeing how different teams chose to show solidarity. Many came out in their Illuminate Austin T-shirts, or wearing their corporate logos. One team came dressed as superheroes, while others wore shirts that honored family members lost to violence.  The contrast felt right for an event that was about memorial and celebration, that had both fun and solemn moments.

Before the walk, many people pinned their own stories, their reasons for walking to Betty’s Wall, the wall honoring the memory of Betty Beal (read Betty’s story here). Those stories on the wall, and all of the people who came on the day, were a visual of how many lives are touched by violence. There were 727 people registered the day before the event, and more showed up to walk on Saturday. The walk is a true community event that anybody could attend. There was a registration fee for those who wanted an Illuminate Austin shirt, but people were also more than welcome to come participate at no cost.

The walk included two loops around Mueller Lake, one in remembrance of victims, and one in celebration of survivors. The first loop of the walk began in the last moments of daylight. As the sun went down, the lights began to glimmer, reflecting off of Mueller Lake, and every part of the pathway around the water was crowded with people committed to ending abuse and violence.

Thanks to the efforts of our amazing teams and participants, we have already exceeded our fundraising goal and the Illuminate Austin donation page will remain live through March. Our volunteer Walk Committee also deserves a shout out for the months they put into bringing back the walk.

We look forward to making this an annual event that gets bigger and better each year.

I’m Walking Because No One Sees These Scars

I’m Walking Because No One Sees These Scars

Beth’s story…

I’m walking because, when he hit me, my skin bruised, but no one asked me what happened.

And when they did, it was easier for them to buy into my lies. “I was climbing a tree, I fell.”

I’m walking because, maybe it was the oldest lie in the book, but it gave them permission to set aside their worry.

I’m walking because, what started off with a bruise quickly became more, and I didn’t know how to get away, and when I told anyone, I wasn’t offered help—I was judged for staying.

Every time I told someone how he scared me, how he didn’t let me spend a night alone in my apartment, how he made me buy him food because he’d spent all of his money on one drug or another, all they could hear was, “I let this happen to me.”

I’m walking because I was only nineteen—just a kid, but I knew by the reactions that it was my fault, and I had to deal with it alone.

I’m walking because, back then, I didn’t know there were people out there who would help me, who would listen, who would understand that leaving wasn’t as simple as walking out the door and changing my phone number.

Trigger warning, rape culture, victim-blaming—these weren’t internet buzzwords yet. Abusers were tattooed, muscular men on the 5 o’clock news, not skinny Liberal Arts majors.

I’m walking because abuse and isolation go hand in hand and I didn’t know that organizations like SafePlace existed, that there were places for people like me, who maybe don’t need emergency shelter, but for whom a kind word would make all the difference.

I’m walking because we can all do better.

On February 22, I will stand side-by-side with a community of people who won’t let violence stay in the dark. When I was nineteen, I didn’t know there were people like that. I’m walking so that other kids can see they are not alone. Someone understands.

I’m walking to bring abuse and violence into the light.

Visit illuminateatx.org to register. 

Why I Walk: Lisa’s Story

Why I Walk: Lisa’s Story

My first walk was years ago while I was still living in supportive housing. I walked with several other Survivors, it was a huge part in the beginning journey of Celebrating the Choice to Use My Voice. We laughed while enjoying being able to connect with each other, our nervousness at being so brazen as to walk and talk openly against violence. We cried at the remembrance wall listing people who had not made it out alive, each of us knowing it really could have been one of our names on that wall. I remember being amazed at all the different faces that came to support or walk and thinking that I had no clue so many people cared or had been affected by violence in their lives.

Looking back, I think my first walk was also my first experience using my voice publicly, learning to celebrate that choice.

Years later, I wrote a spoken piece answering the question “Where are the angry women?”

A delicate seed planted on that walk grew into a firm answer “I will not sit down, I will not shut up, I. will. not. go. away. I am woman and I am here to stay. I laugh too loud, I talk too much, and I cry every single time one of us hurts. I will not shut up. I will not go away. I am woman, my tribe is human, and I am here to stay.

Help us light the way to a safer Austin and show the support that is so meaningful to survivors in our community. Register for the walk here: http://illuminateatx.org/

We’re Bringing Back a SafePlace Tradition! Join us for Illuminate Austin, A Walk for Safe Families

We’re Bringing Back a SafePlace Tradition! Join us for Illuminate Austin, A Walk for Safe Families

The sun is beginning to sink westward, and the sky is getting dark. It’s a cool February evening,  and the Austin air is crisp, but refreshing. Your path glimmers with luminarias as you, your friends, family, and hundreds of others make your way through Mueller Lake Park. Each of you has come to say no to violence, abuse, and fear.

It’s estimated that as many as 60,000 Central Texans live in homes where trauma and fear are part of daily life. As many as 4,000 rapes are committed in Austin each year. Most remain unreported.

But each time we talk about violence, we make it a little safer for a survivor to report. We ease some of the shame and guilt that a victim feels for what has been done to them. Each conversation changes our culture, even just a little bit, and each conversation becomes part of a larger movement.

Those conversations happen online, in homes, at parties, and in classrooms. They happen on car rides, in doctors offices, and at community events. This February, we are taking that conversation to Mueller Lake Park, bringing back the SafePlace Walk after a six year hiatus!

For years, the walk was an annual event, and we hope to see some familiar faces returning, and are excited to welcome new families to the event.

This year, the walk is called Illuminate Austin, because we, as a community, can shine a light on domestic violence and sexual assault. Together, we can say no to shame, and support survivors as they reclaim their lives.

Illuminate Austin is a moment for all of you to come together, to meet people connected to the same cause, and to see how committed our community is to ending sexual assault and domestic violence. (And we suspect those luminarias will have Muellar Lake Park looking extra gorgeous!)

At SafePlace, we are blessed with wonderful, engaged supporters of every age and income, who recognize that whether they can do a little or a lot, it all has an impact. There was a seven-year-old girl who held a lemonade stand to help pay for diapers for the littlest ones on our campus, the elementary school kids who donated their birthdays to SafePlace, and Alpha Chi Omega, the sorority who became our biggest third party fundraisers of 2013 (among many others!). This is a wonderful time for our supporters to come together and walk with us. We hope you’ll join us on February 22nd at Muller Lake Park as we say no to violence, as we honor survivors, and as we remember those we have lost. Let’s Illuminate Austin.

Visit www.illuminateatx.org to register as a walker, create a team, or (for those who will be out of town on February 22nd) register as a virtual walker.

Bringing Holiday Cheer to SafePlace

Bringing Holiday Cheer to SafePlace

Imagine you’re living in transitional housing, you’ve been there for a few months, and life is starting to feel like it’s on track. But Thanksgiving has come and gone, and all those holiday ads have you wondering how you’re going to tell your daughter you just can’t get her that bicycle she’s been asking for.

Then, your case worker tells you that you can make a wish list as part of the Holiday Program. You include the bicycle on your list, thinking it’s a long shot, thinking that no one would spend that much on a stranger’s kid. But a few weeks later, you walk into the SafePlace Community Room to collect your gifts and there, waiting for you, is a brand new bicycle. 


The SafePlace Holiday Program is a December tradition that brings the joy of the season to the people we serve. The program has two parts, Shop for the Shelter and Sponsor a Family. Donations to Shop for the Shelter are displayed so that parents and children spending the holidays in shelter can select gifts for one another. Through Sponsor a Family, each sponsor receives a personal wish list from the family of one of our long-term clients. This year, more than 330 families were sponsored by groups and individuals in our community, with one organization sponsoring fifteen families!

As we began collecting the Sponsor a Family wish lists, we noticed that many people had asked only for simple essentials, like blankets and sheets. When gifts began coming in, we saw that sponsors were going above and beyond what was asked for, getting those necessities, and adding clothing, books and toys. The sponsors will never get to meet these families, all they have to go on is a wish list, first names, and ages, yet that is enough to inspire so much generosity.

The Holiday Program is winding down, and gifts seem to be lining every inch of our Community Room, trickling down the hallway, and spilling over into the rest of our Resource Center.

We are so fortunate to live in such a giving community. Your kindness is helping SafePlace families make new memories, and giving the kids staying at SafePlace a sense of holiday magic.

P.S. If you would like to send a message to the families spending the holidays at SafePlace, go to https://www.safeplace.org/message


Thanks to Senator John Cornyn for visiting SafePlace!

Thanks to Senator John Cornyn for visiting SafePlace!


The senator toured our campus, learned more about our services, and even took the time to read to some of our students! Here he is pictured with SafePlace staff and board members.

The Allstate Foundation Helps Survivors Build Financial Independence

The Allstate Foundation Helps Survivors Build Financial Independence

We are thrilled to announce that the Allstate Foundation has recently awarded us with a $33,250 grant! This grant will increase our ability to help clients develop critical money-management skills, and to empower survivors to take control of their lives.

Since joining the National Network to End Domestic Violence in 2005, the Allstate Foundation has worked with community partners to help survivors learn financial skills “as a way to escape abusive relationships, get safe, stay safe and thrive.” Read More »

Using our Voices to Change the World: Little Victories Make a Big Difference

Using our Voices to Change the World: Little Victories Make a Big Difference

This past weekend, I witnessed something wonderful. I witnessed a small group of thoughtful, committed people change the world one bar sign at a time.

On the evening of Friday, October 4, a downtown Austin bar called Minibar put a sign out front to attract customers. The sign, in an attempt to be funny, stated, “I like my beer like I like my violence: Domestic.”

One person walking by was offended by the sign, so she took a picture and sent it to a friend. The next day, her friend posted it on Facebook and the photo started to go viral. Soon, dozens of people began calling the bar to tell the manager that the sign was offensive and inappropriate. Read More »