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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

September 2015

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Welcome to the September 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:

  - The Purple Purse Challenge
  - A Year at CASA... In Review
  - CASA Mural Unveiling Event
  - How to Talk About Domestic Violence
  - A Survivor Story
  - Upcoming Events
  - Donor Spotlight
  - Volunteer Spotlight
  - CASA's Cell Phone Program

The Purple Purse Challenge

What’s in a Purple Purse?

For Survivors of Domestic Violence a Purple Purse is about hope, freedom, and empowerment.   Issues surrounding domestic violence are never comfortable or easy to discuss.   The Allstate Foundation created the Purple Purse Challenge in an effort to get the conversation started and raise awareness for domestic violence.

During the month of October, we encourage you to visit PurplePurse.com and donate to CASA’s Team Page or share the information.  Money donated will benefit life changing empowerment services for survivors.  With 98% of victims also suffering financial abuse, where an abuser will limit access to money and credit, often keeping a victim trapped in a dangerous situation, these services are vital to help survivors break free and stay free.

As part of the Purple Purse Challenge, Allstate, is releasing engaging, friendly contests among 200 nonprofit  organizations that help domestic violence survivors.  CASA has been chosen as one of the 200!  Each week, we will have the chance to win additional funding, with a grand prize of $100,000!

Stay tuned for more details in next month’s newsletter!  We will keep you informed of how you can help on our facebook page and website as well.  If you are interested in helping us raise funds and setting up a Team Page or receiving more information let us know at [link to info@casa-stpete.org]

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A Year at CASA... In Review

For CASA, the 2014-2015 fiscal year is over, and our final numbers are in. We managed to provide shelter to 219 women and 87 children, while assisting 1,487 survivors in navigating the legal system and providing support in the court room.

More 2014/2015 Highlights:

With the opening of our new 100-bed Shelter, and the continued support from all of you in our community, we are expecting to  turn away far fewer people and help hundreds more survivors of domestic violence find safe refuge.

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CASA Mural Unveiling Event

Art Meets Advocacy at CASA’s Mural Unveiling on Sept 12

It takes three to five days to transform a wall from an empty canvas into an image of empowerment. That gives spectators a window of time through which they can watch artist Derek Donnelly create a mural for CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), the official domestic violence center for southern Pinellas County. The new mural will be painted on the eastern wall at CASA’s thrift store from Sept 5 – 10. The finished work will be revealed at a special Mural Unveiling event on September 12, from noon to 2pm at CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe, 1011 First Ave N, St. Petersburg. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Sept. 12 Mural Unveiling Event features a “meet the artist” and entertainment. The public can learn more and stay up to date using the Facebook event page through this link: www.casa-stpete.org/mural.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with CASA, which is such a vital organization,” said muralist Derek Donnelly. “Helping people is an integral part of my mission as an artist, and I can’t think of a better organization to accomplish that with.”

CASA's mural project received generous grant support from the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, and is being painted in conjunction with the Shine Mural Festival and SPF15. “Our art community has shown incredible solidarity with CASA’s mission,” said Shandra Riffey, Acting Executive Director of CASA. “Earlier in the year we received pieces from over one hundred local artists to help make our recently opened domestic violence shelter a warmer place of healing. With the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Derek Donnelly’s support, that same message of support and possibility will also adorn the walls at CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe.”

More information on the mural unveiling event can be found at www.casa-stpete.org/mural. To learn about other CASA, stories, news and events, subscribe to the CASA Connection e-newsletter at www.casa-stpete.org/subscribe.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, any person requiring special accommodations to participate in the Mural Unveiling event is meeting is asked to advise the agency at least 5 days before the event by contacting Sue Nichols at 727-895-4912 or TTY: 272-828-1269.

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

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How to Talk About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence – no matter how we label it - is not something that most of us can easily talk about. It can be uncomfortable, foreign, and even scary, especially when it is happening to someone that we love. But learning how to talk about domestic violence in ways that help the person who is going through it, is really important.

Why is it important to talk about?

All of that said, you probably know more people experiencing domestic violence than you think.

Get Support From Us – A Local Domestic Violence Center

Realizing that someone you care about is being abused is tough and knowing how to approach them may seem even more daunting. Remember, you’re not alone.  You can reach out to us - people whose job it is to help individuals in these situations - and lean on our advice.

When you call us here at CASA for support, there are a few questions that you should be sure to ask, like:

Talking to the Survivor for the First Time About the Abuse

The most important thing in such conversations is to communicate your concern without judgment. Let the survivor tell their own story and decide their own process.

Remember, no one understands their abuser and their situation better than them. While you may have seen some signs of abuse, there’s probably many things you don’t understand about the relationship that impact how they think and feel.

Instead, focus on creating a space where they can realize their own power and control over their lives and decide what steps they want to take. Remember, this is about them, not you and what you want for them.

Some things to keep in mind during the conversation are:

Support Them Through the Long Haul

Remember, on average it takes 7-13 attempts at leaving before a victim is able to break free from an abusive relationship. And leaving can be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship and in fact is when most victims are murdered. Leaving takes thoughtful planning, requires established support and needs to be done safely, especially when there are children involved.  So your first conversation may not lead to change.

But at least you planted the seed that they deserve better and there are people who can and will help them – people like CASA.

If You Remember Nothing Else…

If all this seems overwhelming, remember these words, “No matter what you decide to do, I will support you and I will be here for you whenever you need me.”

Or if you can’t or don’t want to say that, how about, “There are free and confidential services that can help you any time of the day or night. You are not alone.”

With these words, you’ve respected their autonomy and reflected back that you trust them to make the best decision for themselves.

And if you say this often enough, it may rise above the abuser’s voice long enough for them to take action to end the abuse.


This article was written in collaboration with Liz Odongo, the Training and Outreach Director at the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV). DCCADV engages the community to support survivors, address systems gaps, and implement sound and empowering initiatives. Liz is responsible for designing, facilitating and evaluating training opportunities for Coalition Members, law enforcement, government agencies and community-based organizations.

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A Survivor Story

CASA Services Help a Plucky Survivor of Domestic Violence Succeed Beyond Her Dreams!

Kara is a mother of two who came to the CASA Outreach Department after her husband’s abuse escalated to the point that he broke her nose.  CASA helped her obtain Crime Compensation Relocation assistance through the Victim of Crime (VOCA) funds from the State Attorney General’s Office.

Kara then moved into CASA’s Gateway Housing Program where she has lived for the past two years. At the time she had no job and her only income was from child support and food stamps.  Kara went back to school at St. Pete College to complete her AA Nursing degree and 14 months later was qualified as an AA Registered Nurse. CASA Housing Program Coordinator, Cynthia Ivey, helped Kara apply for charitable adjunct assistance awards from the Women’s Independence Scholarship Program, and Kara won three awards for a total of $7,500 to assist with tuition, books, uniforms, daycare and other student needs.

Kara was also referred by CASA to Gulf Coast Legal Services for pro-bono legal services.  As a result she was granted a divorce from her abuser within her first 14 months of residence at Gateway Housing.

In addition, Kara secured a job interning at All Children’s Hospital while she was attending college.

While at Gateway, Kara met with staff members of the National Foundation for Debt Management who regularly meet with all adult Gateway residents.  The NFDM staff assisted Kara with credit repairs and debt management which in turn allowed her to follow up on a CASA referral to Habitat for Humanity.  Kara began to seriously pursue home ownership.

Within 19 months in the Gateway Program, Kara was accepted as a homeowner candidate with Habitat for Humanity. She and her family attended a home dedication for her new Habitat home on August 11, 2014.

Kara has decided to continue her nursing education and earn a BS in Nursing degree at the University of South Florida.  CASA will sponsor Kara for scholarship funds up to her 6-month follow-up after she leaves the CASA Gateway Program.

To date, Kara has secured a job with her nursing experience and she is earning nearly $47,000 annually, three times what she was bringing in when she came to CASA. She was recently offered a job making $30/hr at the VA Hospital.

In less than 2 years, due to Kara’s hard work and the opportunities she was given through CASA, a survivor of domestic violence has become a homeowner, a successful service provider with a good salary and a capable and caring mother who is able to offer her children a better chance in life than she had herself.  Surely this is the definition of success!

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Events Calendar

September 12 - 12:00pm to 2:00pm
CASA Mural Unveiling
Location: CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe, 1011 First Ave N, St. Petersburg

CASA's office and thrift store is getting a new mural by artist Derek Donnelly! Come to the unveiling event, meet the artist and enjoy 50% off all art at the store. Visit www.casa-stpete.org/mural for more information.

September 19 - Brunch at 11:00 am, Fashion Show at 12:00 pm
Patchington's Party with a Purpose
Location: Isla Del Sol, 5901 Sun Blvd #116, St. Petersburg

Join Patchington for brunch, mimosas and a fashion show fundraiser for CASA! Also ask about Patchington Purple Bracelets and how they are supporting CASA. Visit www.casa-stpete.org/events,fashion-show or call 727-865-0767 for more information.


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

Click here for info on holding a third-party event for CASA.

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Donor Spotlight: Sheila King


To donate to the CASA, click here.  For more information, please contact Tuesdi Dyer at (727) 895-4912, ext. 114.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Apprciation Winners

Congratulations to all of our volunteers who won Appreciation Awards during July's Volunteer Appreciation event at Green Bench Brewery. 

We couldn't do it without you!

Volunteers of the Month – June 2015
More Than 50 Hours In One Month!
Deborah – 119.5 hours at Shelter
Megan – 72 hours at Shelter
DeSales – 51 hours at the Thrift Shoppe

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Thrift Shoppe
Dorrie & Elsa

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Youth Center

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Shelter
Lauren (direct service)
Robert (indirect service)

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Legal

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Administration

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Outreach

Visit our website for more information on becoming a volunteer.

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CASA's Cell Phone Recycling Program

CASA has been collecting new and used cell phones from the community for years. These phones are included in survivor's Safety Plans, allowing them to call 911 if they feel they are in danger.

Of the donated phones that did not work, or did not hold a charge - basically, phones we could not give to survivors - we send them to a cell phone recycling program and are reimbursed a small amount per phone.

So far, we have raised $44,017 from the Cell Phone Recycling Program, which has gone directly back into our programs to provide services to survivors of domestic violence.

To donated your new or used cell phones, please drop them off Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, at our office located at 1011 1st Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

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