Mississippi Power employee volunteers were front and center as the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence recently celebrated 40 years of service with a birthday celebration, complete with cake and the audience singing “Happy Birthday.”
Safety and Training Coordinator Summer Hammonds served as the evening’s emcee. She’s also a board member for the nonprofit.
“Some people think we’re just a shelter, but there’s more to it than that,” said Hammonds. “We help with cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault and support for family members of homicide victims. The center’s volunteers also help the children of domestic violence victims and abused children with educational opportunities. Some victims can also receive legal advice and representation. It’s been a long journey to get to where we are.”
“Without community support like we’ve received from Mississippi Power, we couldn’t do any of this,” said Emily Burke, Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence board president. “It’s a sign of community leadership that the company stepped up to the plate. The assistance is invaluable to us.”
Opening as a safe house in 1977, the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence has provided services to more than 25,000 people in the six coastal counties and has educated more than 12,000 children, adolescents and adults on violence prevention. Its crisis line receives more than 15,000 calls per year from those requesting assistance.
“We began with a crisis line, but we knew we needed more,” said Jane Philo, who served as the center’s executive director from 1983-2005. “Volunteers began using safe houses, until an abuse victim was found and killed by her abuser. The next step was finding a shelter, which we did. It didn’t have anything. We had to get bathtubs from the dump and install them. The house had no air conditioning or heat. Despite that, the victims thrived.”
Sharon Hayes was one of those victims who thrived at the center and is now a volunteer.
“Knowing the anguish and physical and mental turmoil a victim goes through made me want to give back,” Hayes said. “We tell victims their lives are worth saving, and we help them feel empowered.”
Hayes, who earned the center’s Volunteer of the Year award, also appreciates contributions from Mississippi Power, saying “there wouldn’t be a center that serves the community without the community being involved.”
Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for nearly 187,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power ranked first in the Southeast Electric Exchange’s 2016 Safety Performance Reports and is consistently recognized as an industry leader in reliability, customer service and safety. Visit our websites at www.mississippipower.com and www.mississippipowernews.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.