By Stephen J. Kotz
Loretta K. Davis, the executive director of The Retreat, a shelter for the victims of domestic abuse in East Hampton, talks about her organization’s efforts to make the holidays a less stressful and safer time for families in crisis.
It goes without saying that the holidays are a stressful time for families in need. Does that stress translate into a rise in the amount of domestic abuse?
Unfortunately, the holidays can be an even more dangerous time than normal for those at risk for domestic violence. From the financial stress of gift buying, overall increases in alcohol consumption, and the flurry of emotions, and sometimes stress, that accompany holiday togetherness time, there are many reasons why the chance of intimate partner violence can increase during this season.
What can you do? If you’re currently in a violent relationship, or know someone who needs help, call The Retreat’s hotline at (631) 329-2200; it is available 24/7. And, remember, you don’t need to figure out an escape plan right away — you can simply call to talk.
Can you tell us more about The Retreat’s mission?
For almost 30 years, The Retreat has provided safety, shelter, and support for victims of domestic abuse, and worked to educate families and the community about healthy relationships. Just last year, we provided 4,665 safe nights; 3,160 counseling sessions; follow up to 2,365 police reports; and response to 3,636 hotline calls.
The Retreat is a community focused, non-profit, domestic violence agency. Our agency maintains eastern Long Island’s only 24/7 domestic violence hotline, operates a residential shelter for adults and children, provides individual and group counseling, legal advocacy, programs to engage troubled fathers and other men who may be at-risk for committing family violence, and in-school violence prevention education programs.
The Retreat is soliciting donations of gift cards to local food stores as part of its Thanksgiving Gift Card Drive and holding an Adopt-a-Family program for Christmas. Can you tell us more about these programs?
The holiday season is upon us. At The Retreat, it proves especially difficult for the families we serve, as parents who struggle to provide for their family’s basic needs are forced to explain to their children why they may not have gifts to open this year or even the means to provide a holiday meal. Through our holiday programs, we are inviting the community to help make this season a bit brighter for a family in need.
The Retreat’s Thanksgiving and Adopt A Family Programs pair sponsors with families in need, providing a Thanksgiving and/or Christmas they could not afford themselves. The Retreat collects donations or gift cards to local food stores so our clients can shop on their own and provide a fruitful Thanksgiving experience for their families. We have 238 people on the list for Thanksgiving.
The best gift a struggling family can receive is a gift for their child. The Retreat counseling, advocacy, and shelter staff interview families currently enrolled in our programs to determine each child’s specific needs, clothing sizes, interests and hobbies and will determine the family’s area of greatest need. In addition to gifts, gas and grocery gift cards are also much appreciated. We have 76 families to adopt out, totaling 237 individuals.
Does The Retreat have any new programs in the works?
The Retreat recently launched the Suffolk County Fatherhood Initiative, helping educate at-risk fathers and stopping the cycle of abuse. A major emphasis of the program is to enhance economic stability, responsible parenting, and healthy relationships that will provide positive outcomes for fathers and youth. The goal of the program is to assist low-income, at-risk fathers to prevent incidences of family/domestic violence and overcome challenges that inhibit them from being a responsible father to their children and positive support to their intimate partner/wives.
If you want to contribute to the Thanksgiving drive, checks and gift cards can be sent to The Retreat, 13 Goodfriend Drive, East Hampton, New York 11937 and must arrive by November 14. The deadline for the Adopt-a-Family program is December 9. Those interested in contributing to The Retreat’s holiday programs can call The Retreat’s Holiday Help Line at 631-329-4398. Donations can also be made online at www.theretreatinc.org.