Christmas at KAAP shelter a happy time for many residents<BR>

Christmas is a time for family, and the 20 or more residents at Kingman Aid to Abused People shelter will spend the holidays with their new extended families.

Darla and her two children arrived at the KAAP shelter just four days ago, but already starts to feel like home, she said after attending a self -esteem workshop Friday.

The smell of cookies baking wafted through the house, and a large Christmas tree and decorations adorned the cozy living room of the home that doesn't look anything like a typical "shelter."

"I haven't seen my kids smile in six months.

Now I see them smiling," Darla said.

"Right now, it feels good to be here, because we are going to have a good Christmas.

I was sad because I thought that it wouldn't be a good Christmas for the children.

I want them to have good memories and traditions at Christmastime."

Darla and the children were not happy where they were, she said.

Her husband is sick, out of work, and trying to get on disability benefits.

She was recently laid off from one of the two full-time jobs she has been working to make ends meet.

She said her relationship with her husband had a lot of stress, and the situation became abusive and "unhealthy" for her and the children.

"It has been a positive experience for us to be here.

The support I get here is helping me to be a stronger person," she said.

"I want to soak up as much as I can of that emotional support.

… And I want my husband to get the help he needs so he can be the good daddy he once was."

Two months ago KAAP resident Jennifer went straight from the hospital to the shelter with a four-day old baby.

Looking even younger than her 19 years, she feeds and cares for her daughter while attending to classes at the shelter.

She said she had nowhere to go after the baby's birth because her father "kicked me out of the house."

Things did not go well with the baby's father she said, but she has a boyfriend now, someone she met when she was four months pregnant and now has a healthy relationship with.

Now she looks forward to Christmas in her own home.

"I am leaving tomorrow to live with my boyfriend," she said.

"He has a place for us."

Sylvia and her 6-year-old daughter arrived at the KAAP shelter two days before Thanksgiving.

As the attractive brunette sat at the dining room table next to the decorated Christmas tree, she assessed her life.

"I was suicidal when I came here," she said.

"I was scared because I has never been in a place like this.

But when we sat down to eat Thanksgiving dinner, it felt like a family.

It broke the ice for me."

Now, when other residents come to the shelter, they too feel like part of the family.

"The staff is like family too," she added.

"They put feeling into whatever they do.

It is like more than a job to them."

Sylvia said she has suffered physical and emotional abuse all her life, and once experienced date rape and choked.

She knew she needed help, but didn't know where to go.

She began taking medications, but they left her unable to perform simple tasks such as making dinner.

"When I came here, I had no money, and no hope," she said.

"I had lost my fiancé of five years, and a stepson."

Now she attends classes and therapy sessions at the shelter and has taken advantage of the many resources offered to her.

"I need to have the tools to cope – for myself, and so I can teach my daughter," she said.

She is slowly getting herself together she said with the help of the KAAP staff, and taking small steps to attain her goals.

"I am grateful to have food and a roof over my head - for myself and my daughter - and I am learning why things were a certain way to allow me to fall into the situations I have been in," she said.

"I was always looking for others to make me happy.

Now I have a sense of worth I have never had before."

At the shelter, a safe haven for those escaping domestic abuse, she is taking the steps to get her health back and to attain an education and financial stability.

KAAP executive director Nancy Head said Christmas at KAAP is no different from that experienced at other homes.

"This is a family unit," she said.

"We are doing the things other families do.

We will have a special big dinner on Christmas Eve and send the kids to bed early so the moms can wrap the presents."

Through the generosity of local businesses, each child staying at the shelter will receive several gifts and moms will receive a gift or two, she said.

On Christmas Day everyone will open their gifts, the group will cook two turkeys, and some residents will go to church.

"That is the key to this place," Head said.

"To make it as much like a home as possible while offering the residents a safe environment."