KAAP 5K to raise needed funding

Suzanne Clarke

Suzanne Clarke

KINGMAN - When Kingman Aid to Abused People lost 65 percent of its funding last year because of a troubled economy, the nonprofit agency had to tighten its belt.

KAAP cut staff by four workers, leaving five full-timers and six part-timers, and slashed the number of funded beds at the emergency shelter from 30 to 16. Employee health benefits were dropped. KAAP's annual budget, which is now $300,000, should total $600,000 to cover all the services and programs offered by the agency that serves Mohave County and beyond.

"We're doing more with less now," said executive director Suzanne Clarke. "It's a challenge but we took it because we believe in what we do. We know the demand for our services is rising and we want to be here to address these issues. Families shouldn't have to live in fear of any form of violence."

KAAP, a member of the River Cities United Way, provides support to families in crisis, whether it be from domestic violence, crime violence, teen dating violence or elder abuse. Its free services include a pet-friendly emergency shelter, residential and non-residential programs, 24-hour crisis line, elder abuse program, crisis counseling, legal and personal advocacy, and a children's program. The agency also provides training and education in the community.

To make up for the lost funds, KAAP is sponsoring its Fourth Annual Race Against Violence 5K Walk/Run. It will take place at 8 a.m. Oct. 12 at Metcalf Park, 315 W. Beale St. There will be refreshments and an awards ceremony after the race. The entry fee is $30 through Oct. 11 and $35 on race day for adults, and $15 for students 18 years or younger.

The event raised about $5,000 for the agency last year, and is the biggest fund-raiser of the year for KAAP. For more information, including early packet pickup and a buffet dinner the evening before the race, call Mindy Terlesky at (928) 897-0833 or Trini Theel at (928) 279-8894.

Nancy DeBaca, mother of domestic violence victim Bonnie Cook, said the upcoming Race Against Violence is important for several reasons. Cook, 36, was shot and killed Dec. 26, 2003, by her estranged husband, Steven Cook. The Race Against Violence was originally started by Cook's family and friends, with the money going to KAAP, then was turned over to the agency four years ago.

"The race is a good fund-raiser for KAAP and a great way to raise awareness about domestic violence," said DeBaca. "There's a real need for education about it. After Bonnie was killed, we saw a lot of signs that we missed. People think of domestic violence as physical, but it's not all physical. In Bonnie's case, there was a lot of mental abuse. Steven was never physically abusive until the end. People don't know that domestic violence will eventually turn physical."

During the past year, KAAP has been busy serving the community, said Clarke. Its extensive domestic violence program provides prevention and intervention services to male and female victims, with females housed at the emergency shelter. In fiscal year 2013, KAAP provided 5,405 shelter beds and supportive services to 544 women and children.

Residents can stay up to 120 days in the safe, healthy living environment, receiving food, hygiene items, transportation and financial assistance as needed. They receive individual and group counseling on domestic violence, self-esteem building, alcohol and drug abuse, parenting, job skills, legal assistance, life skills and stress management.

KAAP also provided more than 900 hours of supportive services to 147 non-residential clients, mostly men housed in hotels, served through the community outreach program. Clarke said that while 73 percent of domestic violence victims are female, there is an increase in female violence against males.

"Domestic violence is a big problem here and across the country," said Clarke. "In the last few years, because of problems with the economy, the violence has become more extreme. Before, it was mostly verbal, emotional and psychological. Now we see people acting on their threats with physical aggression. In the last two years, there has been a constant flow of people to our shelter."

Not only does a lack of money contribute to domestic violence, said Clarke, but there are other factors. Substance abuse and addiction rates are high in Mohave County, she said, with no treatment programs to deal with the problem. Also, violence on television, in sports and in video games sometimes causes problems among families, she said.

Another area high on KAAP's priorities is elder abuse. In 2012, there was an 11 percent increase in abuse cases reported to the agency, said Clarke. In fiscal year 2013, emergency shelter and services were provided to 20 victims over the age of 66, including five women over the age of 70. Clarke said the oldest person receiving assistance from KAAP was 94 years old.

A 73-year-old woman who was wheel-chair bound, used oxygen and had heart problems was recently referred to KAAP by Kingman Regional Medical Center after disclosing that she feared to return home because her caretaker was verbally, mentally and physically abusive. Clarke said KAAP offered shelter and supportive services upon the woman's release from the hospital, including housing for her 11-year-old miniature terrier.

KAAP worked to coordinate services for the woman, including caring for wounds from her abuse and obtaining the oxygen she had been denied by her caretaker, and obtained permanent handicap-accessible housing, including meals brought in daily. KAAP also found furniture for the woman, who continues to improve in her new, safe surroundings.

"It's surprising to many people that elder abuse is under-reported," said Clarke. "There's just not enough education about it. Handling elder abuse is very difficult because there are so few services available to help. As the Baby Boomers are aging and being cared for by their children, we're seeing more and more elder abuse. We must have those wrap-around services for this vulnerable population."

Last year, KAAP organized its first elder abuse awareness training, drawing 40 attendees. This year, 89 social service providers, church leaders, law enforcement personnel and government officials participated in June, hearing presentations by Community Legal Services, Adult Protective Services, the Area Agency on Aging and the Kingman Police Department.

Still another area of concern is teen dating violence, said Clarke, noting one in four females report physical abuse by their boyfriends. KAAP staff visit local high schools twice a year to present programs about the subject. A day-long seminar is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Lee Williams High School, where students will learn about self-esteem, choosing the right date and knowing when to seek help with a bad relationship.

"This type of violent behavior is familiar to some of the kids," said Clarke. "They see it in their home and they choose boyfriends who are similar to the men in their lives. We're seeing more deaths from teen dating violence and we want to stop it. In fact, we're trying to get into the middle schools to catch it at an earlier age."

KAAP also is sponsoring a parent-child event Oct. 26 at White Cliffs Middle School, where participants will learn about cyber stalking, bullying and teen violence and how to protect themselves and their families. Overall, KAAP provided 32 presentations and training sessions last year on teen dating violence, elder abuse and domestic violence to more than 5,500 attendees.

For more information about KAAP, including donating, volunteering or inviting speakers, call (928) 753-6222.

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