-- Editor's Note: This month the Herald is featuring a series of stories on the Holiday Wish Lists of Mid-Columbia nonprofits and how you can help.
Domestic Violence Services provides a lifeline to Tri-City area residents who are suffering violence in their own homes and relationships, with a 24-hour crisis line, a confidential emergency shelter and other services.
"If we weren't here, we hear again and again and again: 'I would have been on the street,' 'I would have been living in my car,' or 'I would have been dead,' " said Daniel Aspiri, executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties.
But the organization is able to help bring about some happier endings. "It's really neat when we have someone that comes back in and says, 'I was at the shelter,' or 'I came in and saw an advocate here,' and 'You don't know how much it helped me. I'm in a different situation now,' " Aspiri told the Herald.
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Domestic Violence Services helps about 1,200 to 1,300 people a year. It relies on community support to help it do its work, and Aspiri said the agency could use items from financial contributions, to volunteers, to old cell phones to recycle and give to clients.
Domestic violence is a pervasive problem.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says one in four women experiences domestic violence at some point in her life.
Men also can be victims too.
In Benton and Franklin counties, 37 people have been killed in domestic violence incidents since 1997, Aspiri told the Herald.
The nonprofit has life-sized silhouettes representing each one, which it displays during an annual vigil. The silhouettes are covered in pictures and other mementos provided through the years by loved ones.
A few were in the nonprofit's Kennewick office on a recent day, including one with a bulging belly. The woman it represented was pregnant when she died in 2010 at the hands of a former boyfriend.
Her unborn daughter also died.
Along with the crisis line and shelter, Domestic Violence Services also provides help such as safety planning, assistance navigating the legal system, support groups and transitional housing.
Another key part of its mission is raising awareness and providing education and training in the community.
"We want to stop it before it happens. That's where we want to go," Aspiri said. "That takes all of us in a community."
Domestic Violence Services' wish list includes cash donations, volunteers (a training is coming up in March for those interested in direct services) and items for its shelter, such as laundry detergent, towels and washcloths, new socks, underwear and pajamas for women and children, gift cards for grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Target, Fred Meyer and gas stations, unneeded cell phones that can be recycled and provided to clients for emergencies, and Ben Franklin Transit adult and youth bus passes.
For more information about the organization's needs or to donate, call 735-1295. The agency's website is www.dvsbf.org.
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald