Casino-style game night benefits domestic violence shelter

By James Saxton
Times Correspondent

The drizzle had turned into a hard rain, and Karen hadn’t considered that the hard pelting raindrops would themselves hurt the bruises on her face as she swung the baby seat back into her small sedan, which had run out of gas and coasted into the discount store parking lot.

Out of money and frightened that her furious boyfriend would somehow drive by the parking lot and see Karen and their two children under the street light, she snatched up her cell phone and dialed a hotline number, then prayed while the phone rang.

Haven House, a domestic violence shelter serving victims of family violence in Henry and surrounding counties will hold a Casino Night on Friday, October 21 at 7 p.m. All proceeds will benefit Haven House. Special photo

Soon a counselor from Haven House met a desperate Karen and drove her and the two sleeping children to a shelter whose location is not disclosed to the public. Having left without any overnight provisions nor even any warm clothes, the young family was provided pajamas and underclothes and toiletries and diapers, and Karen bathed and, safe at last, slept peacefully for the first time in weeks.

Soon, protected by a temporary protective order that a Haven House legal advocate helped her obtain, a newly employed Karen was moving into an apartment of her own, far from the grasp of a boyfriend whose growing drug use had radically changed him.

Karen’s story is similar to that of many of the almost 600 women and children who are helped each year by Haven House, a 30-day shelter and program in McDonough serving victims of family violence in Henry, Jasper, Butts and Lamar Counties, helping women find peace and security.

“More than just helping a struggling family have a better life, these services can mean life and death to the women we serve,” said Marjorie Lacy, executive director of Haven House.

But the services, provided free to those who need them most, come at a cost. Funds are needed badly.

That’s why the shelter is holding a Casino Night fundraiser Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Merle Manders Conference Center at 111 Davis Road in Stockbridge.

Professional dealers and full-size regulation casino tables await ticket holders, said Haven House board member Gary Sparrow. “As you walk through the doors of the conference center, it’ll be just like you are in Vegas,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

“It’s going to be a great time,” Lacy agreed. “We’re going to have a craps table, two poker tables, two roulette tables and six blackjack tables.”

Tickets – sold in advance by calling 770-954-1008 – are $65, or two for $120. Each ticket provides play money in the form of chips, a drink ticket, and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Cash or checks (no credit cards) can purchase more play money, drinks and silent auction items.

Haven House is a ministry that began here 25 years ago, Lacy said. “Basically our whole agency is about reducing domestic violence and helping keep people safe. We have served 600 each year since 2011 at the shelter and another 1,000 each year through outreach with services such as legal advocacy.”

The current building opened in 2011 and can house 40 to 50 residents. Adult women who come to the shelter alone are housed in a double room and share a community bathroom facility, similar to a college dormitory. Mothers with children are housed in an individual family room with a private bath. There are six double rooms and eight family rooms.

There is a playroom for younger children and a lounge for teens, in addition to the large community living room. A large, modern kitchen provides several cooking areas. There are two laundry rooms for residents to use.

The Haven House shelter provides for both privacy and socialization, with trained staff available to help guide residents through the process of finding legal protection and moving to more permanent housing.

An easy way to help the Haven House is by making a donation of your gently used household goods, fashion accessories and clothing to the Blessings Thrift Store at 86 Workcamp Road in McDonough. Giving home furnishings to Blessings helps families as they begin to rebuild their lives. Drop off donations during shop hours, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. To arrange for pick-up of furniture and household goods, phone 770-288-6503.

There are many more ways to help Haven House through volunteering. To find out how you can contribute or for more information, or to purchase tickets to Casino Night visit www.henry

The 24-hour crisis line for Haven House, 770-954-9229, was an answer to a prayer for Karen that night. “It’s what we do every day, every night,” Lacy said. “We’re there for those who need us. We’re about helping men, women and children live free from the harm of domestic violence. With a little help from others, we can keep these services available. It’s a noble cause that we share with everyone.”