AMY FLOWERS UMBLE, The Free Lance-Star Richmond Times-Dispatch
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — The little boy tugged gently on Kathy Anderson’s sleeve. In the middle of a party, Anderson didn’t notice at first.
The 5-year-old tugged again, and Anderson leaned down to talk with him.
“This house is everything I ever wanted,” he said.
Anderson directs Empowerhouse, an agency that helps families fleeing abusive situations. And the boy’s simple statement validated months of work raising money and renovating the house that became the agency’s first transition home.
That house gave the boy’s mother time to find permanent housing, which is often a challenge for women escaping abuse.
That transition home, opened in Fredericksburg last April, was so successful — helping 18 people in its first year — that Empowerhouse is opening a second.
Late last year, philanthropist Doris Buffett — who donated the first transition home — approached Anderson and offered a second home in the city.
Mark Doherty, co-owner of MacDoc Realty, offered to renovate the home, so that a basement suite became an efficiency. That allowed the home to accommodate two families at a time.
For more than two months, Doherty led a team of volunteers who transformed the home. The agency also donated washing machines and dryers and other household items.
Doherty felt inspired to help after hearing the stories of the women who have turned their lives around thanks to Empowerhouse.
“They need a stable living environment to empower themselves, to get back on their feet,” Doherty said. “I’m honored to help and to be in a position to do so.”
Empowerhouse volunteers performed a variety of tasks getting the house ready for its first guests. Lori Canova oversaw the project and recruited her parents to help paint, clean and spruce up the home.
The house will give Empowerhouse clients some more time to get back on their feet; they can stay at the agency’s emergency shelter for two months. At the transition home, they can stay for six months.
During that time, the women will receive services to help them transition to permanent housing.
“The story is so much bigger than the housing,” said Cathy Davis, an Empowerhouse board member. “It’s coaching these women and children to overcome what’s happened in their lives.”
Kathy Anderson, director of Empowerhouse, sits in the agency’s second transitional home in Fredericksburg. The transition house will also free up space in the emergency shelter. Last year, Empowerhouse turned away 56 families because they didn’t have room.
In that time, 141 women and 143 children stayed in the shelter.
“We’re finding more and more cases of domestic violence rising to the surface,” Davis said. “It’s wonderful to see the community stepping up to protect these women and children.”
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