MEIGS COUNTY — Efforts are underway to bring a domestic violence shelter to Meigs County.
Victoria Wilford explained that a building was recently donated to be turned into the C.C. Baker Domestic Violence Center, which is named in memory of her late mother.
Wilford explained that she was previously in an abusive relationship and the victim of domestic violence, discussing how her upbringing shaped that part of her life.
“I stayed because that’s what you do,” said Wilford, explaining that she stayed for three years in the relationship with the abuse getting worse.
The final straw, she said, was realizing that she would rather be alone than in the abusive situation.
While she grew up in an adoptive home, Wilford was later able to track down her biological family, including multiple half siblings and her mother. She learned that her mother had “made some poor life choices” over the years and would often disappear for a period of time, but would always turn back up. After a few months that was not the case and the family became worried.
Wilford said it was approximately two years after she located her family that her mom’s remains were located. That was in 2002. Her case became a cold case, and was ultimately prosecuted in 2016 after DNA evidence was located. She was the victim of domestic violence and ultimately killed as a result, said Wilford of her mother.
Her personal experience and that of her mother have led Wilford to where she is today with the idea for the C.C. Baker Meigs County Domestic Violence Services Center and becoming an advocate for those who have been in abusive situations.
The Center, once renovation work is completed, will be a place that can serve as a 24-hour shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, as well as providing counseling and community programming for those at the center and other members of the community who may benefit from the programming.
“We want to show healthy relationships and what those can look like,” said Wilford. She added that many people find themselves in generational situations, meaning that they may have had a parent in an abusive relationship, and continue into one themselves as that is what they know. “It can be hard to break that barrier, but we want to help with that.”
Wilford said that she knew following her mom’s case that she wanted to do everything she could to make sure something similar did not happen to others. While she did not have the resources to do anything on a large scale, she thought maybe she could be an advocate for others. Being a “woman of faith” she turned to prayer to help her figure out the next steps.
It was about seven or eight weeks later that she was contacted with the possibility of the building being donated for use as a domestic violence shelter and center.
As the C.C. Baker Center was not yet set up as a non-profit (it is now) the Racine American Legion stepped in to help with the transfer of the building into their name, while South East Ohio Legal Services has been helping with the legal paperwork.
Wilford is working to find grants which can assist with the operation of the shelter, but that there are not grants available at this time for the renovations which need to be done.
Among the initial work that needs to be completed before the center can open is the addition of a shower to the bathroom and insulation in a portion of the building. Future upgrades would include an update and relocation of the kitchen area and dividing up some of the larger rooms into smaller areas for a range of purposes. She also discussed the possibility of creating an outdoor area where those in the shelter can bring their pets, as that is sometimes a barrier for people in leaving an abusive relationship.
The building, once renovations are completed, can accommodate approximately 18 people, and will have space for young children to stay along with their parent.
Donations are currently being accepted to help with the renovations, as well as items which are needed for the shelter including twin beds and related furniture.
Currently, the C.C. Baker Meigs County Domestic Violence Services Center is working to form a Board of Directors which will oversee the center. Wilford said that she wants the board to be representative of the people the center will serve, as well as the community. She is currently looking for individuals who are survivors of domestic violence, family members of those who have been involved in domestic violence situations, members of the business community, clergy, law enforcement and other community members who are interested in serving on the board. A few people have already committed to be board members, including one domestic violence survivor.
Anyone interested in serving on the board, or for more information, may email Wilford at email@example.com. You can also find the C.C. Baker Center on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ccbakercenter/
A spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit the startup of the C.C. Baker Meigs County Domestic Violence Services Center is being held from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 at the Racine American Legion. Donations will be accepted.
(Editor’s note: The locations of domestic violence shelters are often not publicized to protect those in need and therefore, the location of the proposed shelter was not identified in this article.)
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.