Saturday, January 19th, 2019

S Shopper Stories


H.E.R. SHELTER

Santa Claus visits early for Christmas in July

by Anne Lemmons


Beth Cross, executive director

Beth Cross, executive director

Beth Cross, executive director of the H.E.R. Shelter, speaks about her clients’ stories with a level of calm gained from long experience, although most people would find the raw content shocking and overwhelming. These women are fleeing horrific circumstances, often with a remaining codependency that leaves them at risk of returning to the situation they have fled. Beth refuses to give up on any of these individuals or families. Six out of every 10 women will go back to their abuser, but Beth is passionately working for the four that she knows will remain independent and move on with a new and happy life.

“What feeds us is that it does work for people,” Beth explains. Some women will return many times before making the final decision to leave for good, but the shelter will always take in whoever is in need and work with them to improve their lives.

Beth started her journey at the shelter as a volunteer before becoming the volunteer coordinator. After briefly working at United Way, she returned to the H.E.R. Shelter as the executive director and has been in that role for the past six years. Her dedication to this cause is clear and simply enthralling. “There is something about seeing transition in people,” she declares. The commitment she has to working with people to better their lives rings in her voice.


From left to right: Stella McClain, Santa Claus, Wynn Horton, Beth Cross, Stephanie Gray, Connie Hedrick, Steve Hedrick and Gladys Jones at a previous Christmas in July.

From left to right: Stella McClain, Santa Claus, Wynn Horton, Beth Cross, Stephanie Gray, Connie Hedrick, Steve Hedrick and Gladys Jones at a previous Christmas in July.


Beth moved to the Hampton Roads area with her husband and their three wonderful boys, ages 5, 7, and 9. She enjoys reading and journaling, although she admits she has no time for either anymore. The H.E.R. Shelter, which stands for Help and Emergency Response, Inc., is a nonprofit organization which provides shelter, resources, and advocacy for women escaping domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and stalking.

From a client’s initial arrival at the shelter, they are provided a week to emotionally and physically rest and reset. In many situations, there is no chance for them to create a plan or pack even the most important possessions before fleeing an abusive situation. Therefore items such as social security cards, birth certificates, and other essential paperwork will need to be retrieved or ordered, and that takes time. In the coming weeks or months the guests work towards identifying goals and objectives for their new lives such as finding affordable housing, finishing degrees, and securing child care. These individuals are working to build an entirely new life from the ground up, and the volunteers at the shelter are there to provide help and resources every step of the way.

The shelter invites volunteers to apply from all backgrounds, and can provide training to ensure the right fit between the efforts of volunteers and the needs of the survivors and the facility. Additionally, volunteer families with children are invited to movie nights, and meals are shared between guests of the H.E.R. Shelter and parents with children to demonstrate what a healthy family dynamic looks like first hand. Younger volunteers visit to play games and do fun activities and crafts that provide positive social interaction. These activities model balanced, healthy behavior to help in breaking the cycle of violence to which these children might otherwise be subjected.


Having the chance to provide something special
to these children is so important to Beth
and all the volunteers at the shelter.
There is a great deal of excitement
before and during this event.



Resources are provided beyond the shelter as well. Their doors are open for victims to get counseling, to be able to just talk, or get assistance with their court cases. Volunteers speak to groups to teach teenagers what they should expect from a healthy relationship. Throughout the year, the H.E.R. Shelter helps children from all age groups with unique needs and aspirations navigate through their current situations to a brighter future and to break the cycle of violence.

When asked how she stays in a positive and productive frame of mind, both for herself and as an example for her team, Beth says that, although there is a high level of constant stress, there is a lot of laughter. “People are funny!” she says “Kids crack you up.” People want to be happy, and although families are being guided through crisis, there is happiness around them.

The year’s most anticipated event for the H.E.R. Shelter is the annual Christmas in July, being held Wednesday, July 25th from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Greenbrier Country Club. It is a donations drive and Christmas party to support the Children’s Program. Having the chance to provide something special to these children is so important to Beth and all the volunteers at the shelter. There is a great deal of excitement before and during this event.


The shelter’s children get a special visit with Santa

The shelter’s children get a special visit with Santa

Connie Hedrick from RealVisions Realty Team has organized the event. The donations drive will run through July with the goal of collecting the supplies and funds that will allow the shelter to help between 150 and 200 children throughout the year. It is free to attend and the public is welcome to RSVP by visiting https://herchristmasinjuly.eventbrite.com. Further information can be found at www.hershelter.com.

The support for Christmas in July comes in many forms, such as Solid Foundations, a summer camp that gives these youths the opportunity to leave their crisis situations and go to a place designed just for them to have fun. Other support comes in the form of tutoring and supplies like clothes, backpacks, and new glasses. These donations allow them to regain some normalcy in their lives.

It is essential that there is a place where these victims can go with their children where they know they will be cared for and safe. Victims can rebuild their lives and children can grow up in an atmosphere of love and support that may not have existed otherwise. The community as a whole benefits from reduced crime and lower rates of domestic violence as the cycle is broken. Beth has many inspiring stories of individuals and families who have escaped from unspeakable circumstances and turned their lives around. The H.E.R. Shelter’s impact on the community is without compare.




H.E.R. Shelter

757-485-1445
http://www.hershelter.com