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24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline:
(727) 895-4912 | TTY: (727) 828-1269
Outside Pinellas County: (800) 500-1119 | TDD: (800) 621-4202

July 2015

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Welcome to the July 2015 issue of the CASA Connection!
Join our email list and be among the first to see all the stories, news
and thrift shoppe sales!

In this issue:

  - Letter from Linda A. Osmundson
  - New Shelter Opens!
  - Thrift Shoppe Pick Up
  - Peacemaker Program
  - A CASA Survivor Story
  - Upcoming Events
  - Donor Spotlight
  - Volunteer Spotlight

Linda A. Osmundson

Letter from Linda A. Osmundson

There are lots of changes at CASA.  By the time you read this we will be moving the women in our smaller shelter to our new 100 bed shelter.  It will be a new experience for all of us.  Of course, we need additional staff who have been in training for the past weeks.

We are not moving much out of the old shelter other than files and computers and a few other essentials.  We are in the process of selling the old shelter once we move out and, much as we love our old building, it will be torn down and replaced with new houses.  The new shelter will have new beds and new furniture for the staff and the women who live there. 

I will probably have retired by the time you read this.  For me it is bittersweet.  Many friends are sending congratulations but what does one do after nearly 26 years of getting up every day and going to work?  I loved my job and I’m one of the fortunate few that loved going to work for all those years.  But it is time for others to assume the reins. 

It is embarrassing to receive commendations from the community as though I did all the work by myself.  I really think of myself as an orchestra conductor.  What would I do without the violins in Development?  How would I play a piece without the percussion in Finance?  How would I play without the violas and clarinets and oboes in the Outreach department or the bass and horns in the shelter?  How would we pay bills without the trumpets who write the grants? How would we make music without the Board that decides the music and puts it on the stands?   Non-profits are complicated organizations that need lots of musicians and supporters and even audiences.  I feel great that the staff who are there are top notch!

What will CASA do next?  First we have to pay off the loans on the shelter that allowed us to build the building without having raised all the money.  Then we have to learn to raise at least a million dollars more a year that it will cost to pay the electric bill and the salaries of the additional staff.  We will have a lot to learn about running a 40,000 square foot building compared to an 8,000 square foot building.  There will be things we didn't think about.  There are also things we knew we needed but couldn't afford for which we will depend on you to supply.  Landscaping is a big issue.  We need lots more trees!

The next moves won’t be mine to make.  There is more land that we don't need in front of the shelter.  Maybe we could build a child care program or more housing or collaborate with another non-profit who wants to build a compatible program?  There will be new grants and new programs.  There will be many exciting decisions to make in the future. 

For me it has been playing a fun, lively harmonious score most of the time.  I have loved being the conductor for so many years.  I have loved working in such a supportive community.

-Linda A. Osmundson

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New 100-bed domestic violence center construction photo

CASA's New 100-Bed Domestic Violence Center Opens!

This month we are finally opening the doors to our new 100-bed shelter, tripling our capacity to provide emergency housing and services to families escaping violence. “At first it was a daunting task to take on such a large shelter project, but the community has been stepping up to help open doors to a safer future for survivors of domestic violence,” said Tuesdi Dyer, CASA’s Development Director. “People just get it- this shelter is a necessity- and the community is clearly committed to sustaining this vital place of refuge for decades to come.” Join the conversation on Facebook, plus learn more about what the shelter has to offer -- it's so much more than just beds!

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CASA’s Thrift Shoppe Offers Furniture Pick-Up Service

Do you have a couch that you want to donate to CASA but it doesn't fit into your car? Or, perhaps a dresser that is just too heavy to carry? Have no fear, the CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe Pick-Up Service is here!

Because the community has helped us in so many ways throughout the years, we want to give a little help back. To make getting your donations to our Thrift Shoppe a little easier on your back (and your wallet), we are offering a free furniture pick-up service one day per week. This furniture pick-up service is offered every Tuesday, and one Saturday per month, to all South Pinellas County residents.

CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe will accept Like New:

To schedule a pick-up service to your home please call (727) 828-1233. For more information about the CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe and upcoming sales and events, visit our Facebook Page.

Upcoming Thrift Shoppe Specials:

  Friday, July 10th
  50% Off Women's Shorts & Capris
  Monday, July 13th
  75% Off Select Boutique Items
  50% Off Yellow Tag Clothes
  Friday, July 17th
  50% Off Lamps and Pictures
  Weekend of July 24th
  35% Off Storewide*
  *Nearly everything in the store

To stay up to date on upcoming sales and promotions, subscribe to the Thrift Shoppe email list by clicking here.


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CASA’s Peacemaker Program Teaches Alternatives to Violence

CASA and partnering organizations began the Peacemaker program in June of 1998 to provide peace education and violence prevention activities for children. The goal of the program is to empower youth to live peaceful lives. Preschool and Kindergarten students receiving the program learn how to talk out their problems, stay safe at home, walk away when necessary, embrace their differences, and care for each other and the environment. Elementary and Middle school students learn ways to stay safe with regards to domestic violence, bullying, the internet, and with strangers.  They also learn how to identify and handle anger as well as acquire peacemaking and communication skills. The underlying concept of the Peacemaker Program is that when students are presented with information on techniques to avoid conflict and resolve conflict in a non-violent manner and this is presented to youth in a creative way, they will learn essential conflict-resolution skills.

Age appropriate curricula for both elementary and middle schoolers involves listening to the student’s concerns, encouraging them to talk about their issues, and facilitating the ability of the youth to learn appropriate responses to conflict and in doing  so, develop a holistic framework for peace work.   With this participatory approach, youth begin to understand their personal experiences within the context of the family and the larger community. It helps prevent them from becoming overwhelmed by their own problems and can provide the means for them to recognize their own strengths and that of their family members.  Essentially a nurturing process empowering the youth to explore their own visions and create their own self-confident reality, Peacemakers provides the impetus for empowerment where strengths are identified and safety concerns are recognized.

The CASA Peacemaker program serves on average, more than 1,000 preschool/kindergarteners, and more than 2,000 elementary and middle school students in Pinellas County each year.

While there are some specified criteria for scheduling the Preschool/Kindergarten Program, it is currently offered county wide. Both the Elementary (4th and 5th grade) and Middle School (6th, 7th, and 8th grade) programs are available to any elementary or middle school in south Pinellas County. Although it is a program offered at no cost to schools and the Juvenile Welfare Board provides a grant to cover much of the Preschool/Kindergarten portion, all of Elementary and Middle School Peacemakers is unfunded and relies on donations from the community to continue this important work.

For more information on participation in the Peacemaker program, or ways in which you can support it, please call (727) 895-4912 or visit our website.

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A CASA Survivor Story

All names have been changed.

Born in Jamaica, Alizabeth traveled to the United States many times throughout her life, visiting friends or doing research for her employer. Now, after forming an intimate relationship with an American man through Facebook, whom her sister introduced, Alizabeth was even more determined to come to the U.S. to meet the man she was forming feelings for. On May 12, 2013, Alizabeth met Luther in person.

Though her visitor visa was slowly running out, Alizabeth was falling in love with Luther’s charm, flattery and good looks, and she began to realize that she wanted to spend her life with him. So, a few weeks later, when he asked for her hand in marriage, she said yes. On June 22, 2013 Alizabeth and Luther were married.

The abuse and isolation began in July of 2013.

It started as verbal abuse, outside of the Social Security Office as Alizabeth was trying to obtain the necessary documents so she could begin working – a subject Luther often hung over her head. Being a citizen of another country, she could not legally work in the United States until she was granted these documents, and although she knew this, Luther refused to accept it. Calling her lazy, cursing at her, and demanding she find a job, even if that meant selling her body to strangers, Luther’s true self began to show its ugly face. Alizabeth was not allowed to leave the house, have any friends, or contact any family back home in Jamaica.

Alizabeth’s 15 year old son, who was living with the couple, was receiving money from his father back in Jamaica - $350 per month. Luther began keeping this money for himself, and eventually limiting what and when Alizabeth and her son ate. Alizabeth would eat one package of Ramen noodles per day, sometimes boiling water to drink so that she would not pass out from hunger and stomach pains. Alizabeth’s son began asking friends for food while he was at school.

In September, Luther quit his job and began attending college; this is when the sexual abuse began. Once, sometimes twice a day, Luther would force Alizabeth to perform sexual acts. In November, Luther decided that he wanted a child, and that month, Alizabeth became pregnant. Though she was pregnant, the abuse got worse, and on December 30, 2013, the pain during sex became unbearable. After using the restroom, Alizabeth noticed that she was bleeding heavily, and immediately demanded that she go to the hospital.

While in the hospital room, Luther began accusing Alizabeth of trying to kill their baby. As he put his hands into fists and cursed at her, Alizabeth screamed “Get out! I am tired of your abuse!” Several doctors and nurses rushed in and asked Luther to leave. When he was gone, Alizabeth broke down, telling them everything. The police arrived, and they suggested that she get an injunction of protection against her husband. Three days later, after being released from the hospital, Alizabeth arrived at CASA’s shelter.

Now, almost two years later, Alizabeth is living in an apartment in the Gateway Housing Program. Since then, she has received her work permit, received her Certified Nursing Assistant degree from the Red Cross with the help of a donation from the Bank of America; she is working in a hospital part-time as a Patient Care Tech, a position she has always wanted but never dreamed of getting. She has her own car, her two young children living back in Jamaica have received permission and documentation to come live in the United States; and, she has been accepted as a recipient of a house from Habitat for Humanity. Not to mention, last month she was crowned CNA of the Month at the nursing home in which she works full-time.

“I could never have done this without CASA. CASA saved me,” she said as her smile lights up the room. “Now, as my life is so blessed, I want to give back. I want to give back to an organization that has given so much to me.”

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Events Calendar

July 7th, 2015 - 9:00am to 1:00pm
Clothing Swap at Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market
Location: 2908 Beach Blvd S, Gulfport

Gulfport’s weekly market holds a clothing swap the second Tuesday of every month. Cash donations and all garments remaining at the end of the swap are donated to CASA. Visit http://gulfportma.com/gma-events/clothing-swap for more information.

July 9th, 2015 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
CASA table at LocalShops1’s Second Thursday Social
Location: Being, 1575 4th St. N., St. Petersburg

CASA is the featured nonprofit at LocalShops1’s monthly networking social for locally owned businesses, nonprofits and community-minded shoppers. Visit LocalShops1.com/Social for more information.

SAVE THE DATE for the 2015 Peace Breakfast!
Thursday, December 10th
Contact info@casa-stpete.org for more information.

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Donor Spotlight: HSN Cares

For almost a decade, HSN has been a unique and dedicated partner for CASA. It began one day when a representative called to see if we could use AA batteries.  Those boxes and boxes of AA batteries blossomed into donations of new products for our families, a memorable and highly successful golf tournament, and today a $100,000 Capital Campaign donation that was instrumental in breaking ground on CASA’s biggest endeavor to date – the new shelter.

During the last two weeks of June, CASA welcomed hundreds of HSN employees through the shelter doors as they got to see an amazing new facility and put the special final touches on the new center. “HSN truly understands what it means to love and support this community,” says CASA’s Development Director, Tuesdi Dyer.  “You can really feel their commitment to our families from every employee.  They don’t just talk about being good stewards, they make it a part of their culture.”  HSN staff made beds, stocked shelves with food, and organized the shelter’s boutique.  They cleaned bedrooms and kitchens, and even provided video production of the facilities for insurance purposes. They were so proud to see what HSN’s time, talent and treasure created for the families of our community.

We are forever grateful to HSN for the tremendous impact on CASA.  We cannot do the amazing work we do without them.  It has been such a wonderful journey with them by our side.

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Volunteer Spotlight: First Presbyterian Church!

Forty-two volunteers from various Youth Groups with Presbyterian Churches throughout Wisconsin, came all the way to CASA on June 9th and volunteered their time to pack items from our Youth Room, Teen Room and Garage for our move into the New Shelter.

Visit our website for more information on Workgroup Opportunities.

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Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Pinellas Community Foundation United Way Suncoast MyFlFamilies JWB Pinellas