Churches raise domestic violence awareness
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
Domestic violence awareness is not just being recognized during the month of October.
Thanks to two groups of men at different churches in Blount County, awareness is now year round.
Cedar Point Church in Maryville and Hope Community Church in Alcoa have active men’s groups that advocate against domestic violence and strive to be better husbands and fathers, and have a mission of getting other churches involved.
The groups have been working with Haven House as they recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, participating and soon hosting various activities and special events, and plan to continue to do so.
“We’ve been working as a men’s group in various ways for several years,” said Tom Van Gorkom, director of the group at Cedar Point Church, “but this year, we especially wanted to be come more active in the community, and then we heard about this opportunity with Haven House. We have often helped different ministries and different community social services, but this one grabbed our attention.
“We had a little more of a connection there at Haven House,” Van Gorkom continued. “I learned about the ministry and (Valerie Day, Haven House CEO) wants men in Blount County to understand the extent of the problem and take ownership of the problem. I said, ‘Well, count us in and we’ll jump in with you.’”
'PROBLEM’ IN CHURCHES
Earlier this year, the group presented a check to Haven House for $300 to go toward the refurbishing on the organization’s shelter.
“We’ve been exploring which way we could help them with the message of raising awareness,” Van Gorkom said. “How do we hold ourselves accountable? We’d like to spur other men’s groups for awareness and join us. We’re trying to get the message as far as we can. Even in churches there’s a problem — it’s not just a problem in homes, it’s a problem in our society. If the church can’t help, who can?
“We’re still exploring the best ways to help,” Van Gorkom continued. “We’re kind of in the beginning stages and we want to put out the challenge to other churches to jump in with us and recognize the problem. and come over to learn about it and become more accountable. We can be better fathers, better husbands, and let’s put a stop to this domestic violence problem. Blount County is one of the worst in the nation for domestic violence. It’s a higher than average rate, so I think that needs to be made known, and we can get more men to join.”
Chris Carpenter, pastor of Hope Community Church, said his church, which has only been together as a congregation for two years, just partnered with Haven House and is still in the learning process.
“Our church as a whole was looking for different areas of service in the community,” Carpenter said. “We heard about Haven House and the message they give out against domestic violence.
“When I met with Valerie Day, the numbers were astounding to me,” Carpenter continued. “I didn’t realize that one in three homes deal with domestic violence on some sort of level. It felt like the something the church needs to rally around. When she especially told me that men needed to be outspoken against domestic violence, that is something that hit home with me as a pastor in the church.”
Carpenter said his church has a congregation of 50 to 60 people.
“We are in the beginning stage of how we can have a voice in the community against domestic violence, and so right now it’s really just on a volunteer level coming alongside Haven House with their fundraisers,” Carpenter said. “We are hoping in the future that all of our church, especially men, would have a voice in some way, whether it be in the workplace or friendships they have in their own neighborhoods, they would raise awareness of this. Once the education comes full swing and we figure out better ways to get involved with Haven house and use our voice as a church body, it will lead to bigger things.”