By HEAL Staff Writer Jessica Martinez
Help End Abuse for Life, Inc. (HEAL) was founded by individual citizens in 2005 with one major mission: to stop domestic violence and provide a safe place for women and children who had their lives and families shaken by abuse. In March 2007, HEAL opened the doors to The Nest, Lincoln County’s first and only domestic violence shelter located in Ruidoso Downs.
The Nest is designed on the new model of open sheltering: a publicly advertised shelter, very near both police and fire departments and with an enhanced security system to ensure all residents, staff and volunteers are safe. Services at the Nest include emergency shelter, food, clothing, access to medical care, housing needs, education and training, legal advocacy, job searching, resume and job interview preparation, counseling (individual, child & family), domestic violence education, Women’s Enrichment Series and self-esteem development and life skills such as constructive parenting, nutrition, exercise, assertiveness and budgeting.
Residents are sometimes brought to the Nest by the Police, counselors, pastors, friends or employers. “And many women simply show up on the doorsteps of The Nest needing help,” said Coleen Widell, Executive Director of HEAL. “The old model of sheltering, where the location was a secret or buried in a quiet neighborhood, was not effective. Victims could not find it. The police, counselors and probation officers could not find it. Usually the only people to find it were the abusers. Our shelter is out in the open, on a major highway with a large sign on the building so victims can find us to access the very services intended to help them break the cycle of domestic violence.”
In addition to funding from the Children, Youth & Families Department, HEAL enjoys much generosity and kindness from donors in the community and across the State of New Mexico.
Recently, The Nest received a financial contribution from KOWIN of New Mexico – a regional chapter of Korean Women’s International Network. According to the group’s president, Kwangjong Park, Ph.D., the group “is an organization of professional women of Korean heritage residing in New Mexico and who hold leadership positions in their career fields.”
KOWIN New Mexico’s mission is to serve local communities and to inform, support and mentor young Korean-American women to become future leaders. “Since our organization supports women’s rights and strongly promotes social and economic empowerment for marginalized women,” Dr. Park explained, “we wanted to donate to the Nest, which provides resources for these women who need to empower themselves and their families from domestic violence.”
The Nest also has supporters outside the State of New Mexico. Jen Rollins of Plainview, Texas has brought her Garland Street Church Sunday School Class to Lincoln County for several years. This past March, members volunteered at Sweet Charity, the resale shop run by HEAL which benefits the Nest. The group also made blankets and donated them to the shelter.
Locally, the Nest recently received a large donation of new books from Building Communities that Support Children’s Reading (BCSCR), a project of the Three Rivers Education Foundation, in collaboration with regional education centers and school districts. BCSCR, now in its third year, is a federally funded project to help significantly improve children’s reading ability and combines professional development, book distribution, community events, and tutoring to help children learn to read well.
Janice Bickert is the BCSCR Regional Coordinator who serves Lincoln County and beyond. “I work with the districts associated with Region IX Educational Cooperative to arrange for after school reading, tutoring, to provide free books for parent nights, literacy nights, etc., and to bring in professional development for schools/teachers, and, finally, to set out Little Free Libraries,” Bickert explained.
“The Nest was chosen as the beneficiary of the free books because it serves children,” said Bickert, “and providing free books and opportunities for reading for children is what we are all about.”
For more information about BCSCR, visit their website at http://tutoring.3riversed.org/.
To find out more about HEAL and the Nest Domestic Violence Shelter, visit their website at www.helpendabuseforlife.org.