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Episcopal Community Foundation Grant Boosts Gainesville’s Gateway Center

Jun 27, 2022

A HeartBeat Story *

GAINESVILLE, GA – A grant from the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia helped the Gateway Center Against Domestic Violence make vital improvements to its facilities and services.

Gateway board member Dr. Susanne Turner said the $25,000 grant provided both needed cash and helped increase Gateway’s visibility in the community.

“Gateway is grateful for the recent grant from the Episcopal Community Foundation. Without support like this, Gateway wouldn’t be able to expand and offer the wide variety of services we can offer today. All grants and donations are meaningful, but grants and donations from our community help us grow roots that will strengthen our center for years to come,” said Turner.

Turner, who is a parishioner of Grace Episcopal Church, said the grant enabled Gateway to continue major renovations to their secured residential facilities, including substantial upgrades to their commercial kitchen, a necessity considering the increased number of residents who reside within its safe confines until safer permanent housing is identified. Those renovations are now complete and relocating to these improved facilities is planned for early fall 2022.

Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, through its Compassion and Outreach Committee, advocated for Gateway to receive the grant.

The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham, rector of Grace Episcopal, said domestic violence is a problem that exists, sadly, in all socio-economic households. Violent abusers may suffer chronic unemployment or be among professions such as medicine, law, or commerce. Violent abusers may suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or be acting out of their own history of violence learned as children.

“Stereotyping violent abusers is not helpful to successful programs to intervene in these dangerous situations. Learning to know the common signs of violent abuse, however, is possible,” Higginbotham said

Because of this, Higginbotham said it is important that churches, such as Grace Episcopal, learn to recognize the signs of abuse, and that key church staff members be prepared to offer counseling, invite law enforcement into the situation, and assist in contacting close friends or family who can provide a compassionate presence as the situation is assessed and the appropriate next steps are planned.

Knowing that isolation from friends and family can be two of the conditions that give the abuser a sense of power over his family, Grace has a large corps of trained lay chaplains who are part of the Community of Hope, International. These lay chaplains stand ready at any time to step in and assist with counseling, guidance, and referrals.

“Our corps of trained lay chaplains are continually called upon and joyfully respond to situations that desperately need compassionate listeners. Otherwise, those persons who, in our society are victims of violence, or persons attempting to rehabilitate their lives would remain marginalized or fall through the cracks altogether. We are always available to respond to the needs of the women who find safe shelter in the Gateway Center and know very well the healing power of compassionate listening,” said parishioner Sue Montgomery, who leads the Grace Episcopal chapter of Community of Hope, International.

Grace Episcopal’s Senior Associate Rector, The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Park, who is also a licensed professional counselor, said that in addition to this lay chaplains’ corps, Grace’s clergy do not shy away from truth-telling in sermons and in classes about what now appears to be a culture that fosters what is termed “toxic masculinity” through violent video games, movies, and music that pervades our culture. We recognize that the men, and sometimes women, in our faith community are not immune from this poison.

“Preaching and teaching about the character of any person who considers themselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ is woven throughout our Christian Formation program throughout the year,” Park said.

Beyond serving on the governing board of the Gateway Center, Grace parishioners also raise awareness of this critical issue.

In 2021 and 2022, Grace made $5000 donations to Gateway Center.

“Grace Episcopal Church is pleased to be able to support this organization and grateful indeed for the generosity of the Episcopal Community Foundation in granting them this funding to assist in their efforts to provide safe shelter for victims of domestic abuse along with education and skills that will prevent its continuation,” Park said.

The Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia (ECF) is a ministry within the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. ECF funds Episcopal parishes and their nonprofit partners who help people experiencing poverty and oppression, particularly efforts around hunger, homelessness, generational poverty, refugee services, human trafficking victims, and those whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

Learn more about Grace Episcopal

Learn more about Gateway

Learn more about the Episcopal Community Foundation

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Don Plummer is the beat reporter for The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. If you have story ideas, please reach out to Don.

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