Saturday, July 20th, 2024

Heros for HER Golf Tournament Story


Funds raised through upcoming event will help victims of domestic abuse

by Kathy Van Mullekom

A foursome on the golf course can help a local family in crisis find a safer life.

The H.E.R Shelter for women, men and children caught in domestic violence invites the community to participate in its first-ever golf tournament fund-raiser. The Heroes for HER Golf Tournament will be held on Friday, May 14, at the Bide-A-Wee Golf Course in Portsmouth.

Last year, the shelter's annual gala fundraiser was canceled due to Covid. When it came time to plan 2021 events, a healthy fresh-air event like a golf outing immediately came to mind. "Let's get outside, socially distance ourselves and be a HERO for those surviving domestic violence," says Deborah Epperson, the shelter's community engagement manager. "Individuals help sustain the H.E.R. Shelter, allowing us to fulfill our mission. The tournament is a great way to partner with us."

Sponsored by Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, the tournament will be a captain's choice, best-ball format. Registration and lunch start at 11 a.m., with a shotgun kickoff at noon. Each golfer is placed on a requested foursome or matched with three other golfers. Awards and prizes, as well as a silent auction, are part of the festivities. Registration is $600 per foursome, or $150 per individual, and includes golf, lunch, and a goodie bag.  

The H.E.R. Shelter, which primarily serves Chesapeake and Portsmouth, operates three facilities: two shelters for domestic violence and one site for the homeless. Last year, H.E.R. aided 176 adults (of whom 99 percent were female) and 190 children.

In the domestic violence shelters, parents and children live in a communal setting with private bedrooms and shared eating and recreational areas. Throughout the COVID pandemic, children have been provided virtual learning labs while their parents work with staff to secure job training, employment and safe housing.

According to Deborah, public awareness of domestic violence typically focuses on women and children, but the shelter also assists men who experience similar abuse. The number of men seeking help has been small in the past, but has grown in recent years. Because the shelters offer communal living, men needing help are housed in hotels. "In 2020, we served less than a dozen men, but those numbers are steadily increasing," Deborah says. "We are letting men know it's okay to admit that they need help."

This year, one of H.E.R.'s major goals is outreach to more underserved people in the community, including men and members of the LGBTQ population. In addition, the shelter organizes tutoring, moving and transportation committees to assist clients. Tutoring volunteers mentor school-age children; moving volunteers will help relocate furniture and household goods that clients need for their post-shelter living arrangements. Transportation volunteers will take clients to places like the Social Security office and medical appointments.

"Domestic violence
can touch soccer moms,
 working women, young navy wives,
and even young enlisted men...
Domestic violence does not discriminate
 and can happen to people
in any walk of life
and at any economic level."
                                           - Olivia Smithberger

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors and donors, the shelters have received the financial aid they've needed during the COVID pandemic. About 80 percent of the budget comes from grants and the rest from fund-raisers that are held throughout the year. In February, H.E.R.'s first Mardi Bras fund-raiser was a success, bringing in much-needed funds to purchase underwear and hygiene products for those in the shelter. Each fall, there's the Smart Women's Lunch-a women's empowerment event with a keynote speaker. In December, monetary donations from a Silent Nights campaign and the Gifts of Joy Drive ensure that shelter families with children have a merry Christmas. Supporters can also donate vehicles, boats and R.V.s in any condition.

"Using H.E.R. Shelter's Amazon Wish List, donors can also contribute from home, choosing much-needed items that are shipped directly to the organization," Deborah explains. Currently, the list features holiday and educational items for children and cleaning supplies, such as laundry soap, that can be handed out quickly and easily as needed.

With the upcoming golf tournament, H.E.R. hopes to raise the funds needed to help with increased costs such as hotels needed for men and overflow from the shelters. "In 2019, we received 1,185 calls into our 24-hour crisis hotline," Deborah explains. "In 2020, that number rose to 2,158 calls."
Executive Director Olivia Smithberger understands that domestic violence is a subject that most people find unpleasant. Still, she considers it vital to raise public awareness of how many people actually struggle to survive domestic violence.

"It's something that's happening in every community," she says. "Domestic violence can touch soccer moms, working women, young navy wives, and even young enlisted men. These are just a few of the types of people the H.E.R. Shelter helps every day. Domestic violence does not discriminate and can happen to people in any walk of life and at any economic level."

There are many misconceptions about the work of the shelter. Some believe that those struggling to escape domestic violence have to move into the shelter to access its services. Other victims assume that if they enter the shelter, they will lose custody of their children. Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

"Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence or just wants to talk to someone can call the hotline and receive services without coming into the shelter," Olivia says. "If they want to know what resources are available or what the process is when they are ready to leave, they can call us. The H.E.R. Shelter truly is a community resource that is here to serve all."

To register for the tournament, visit

For more information on donating to the
tournament's auction,
contact Deborah at 757-485-1445 or

Heroes for HER Golf Tournament
11:00 a.m. - May 14, 2021  
Bide-A-Wee Golf Course
1 Bide-A-Wee Lane

H.E.R. Shelter