The service organization, based out of Marietta, has launched what it is calling the Square Foot Club to raise money for much-needed renovations, repairs and additions, specifically for its domestic violence shelter.
"We understand that it is difficult to donate with this economy, but this shelter has gone almost 30 years with no major renovations or substantial upkeep, and these families have already gone through so much, they deserve to be in a clean, functioning, safe haven," said Holly Comer, CEO and executive director of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia.
To be a member of the Club, Comer asks that you donate $129 per square foot to help fund the renovations, which would include added beds, better restroom facilities and an altogether overhaul of the shelter. Interested donors can pledge a one-time gift of $645 or $129 a year for five years.
Comer said the group hopes to have 1,000 donors, which would raise $645,000 for the organization and lay the foundation for the renovations.
Don Massaro, an active volunteer with the organization and a member of the Y's Guys Committee, said the shelter has 32 beds, but needs many more along with more room, better kitchen appliances and better showers and restroom facilities to accommodate them.
"Domestic violence doesn't have a cap, so you can't turn people away who need our help," Massaro said. "The people who have been through this, you can't just go out in the community and say we only have room for 32 so you just need to stay out in the community. That just doesn't work, and sadly, we know that there will always be families who need our help, though we certainly believe our educational campaigns are helping families to feel empowered and know their options."
One of those families include that of Cobb resident Dan Mercurio, whose daughter was raped by someone she knew in 2007. His daughter was 25 at the time of the assault, and Mercurio defines the YWCA's involvement in her recovery as "critical and life-saving."
"The situation creates indescribable trauma, and these services helped to created the road to recovery for all of us and made her go from a victim to a survivor," Mercurio said. "They understood what she was going through, and encouraged her to come through at her pace but not to fall off the path of recovery. As budget cuts come everywhere, there are fewer resources, and I can't imagine what would have replaced the time and help that she received from her counselors and the group. Something would have, and I'm not sure where she'd be today without it so I can assure you the YWCA has been invaluable."
Mercurio is now a part of the YWCA men's group, founded by Massaro, which Mercurio said has helped him in being able to give back to the organization that became a safe haven for his daughter.
Massaro added that it is imperative those facing abuse in their homes or experiencing sexual assault have the opportunity to flee mentally and physically destructive situations by coming to the shelter or seek counseling, as Mercurio's daughter did, and to feel welcome and comforted in doing so.
"We are the only domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in all of Cobb, and the first in Georgia, so we have to do what we can to help these people and get them back on their feet and bring joy to their lives. Leaky roofs and crowded, old beds in tight spaces is not what they deserve," Massaro said.
Comer said that the Square Foot Club is the foundation for their renovation plans, which will jumpstart other endeavors as the organization seeks help from other donors, foundations and corporations in the future.
"We need to be able to show that we have community support so that we can inspire others to be interested and involved and help these people who really need our assistance," Comer said.
According to the organization's Web site, each donor will be recognized in the main building of the renovated facility in the lobby and receive a certificate denoting their commitment to this endeavor. Comer said the group has not yet decided how exactly those donors' names will be displayed in the facility.
"This is sincerely all about the cause, and is something we believe so strongly in," Massaro said. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who need our help, and having the only shelter in all of Cobb, we should be offering a first-class facility. We have the opportunity to come together as a community and tell these families that we care about them."
To donate, visit www.ywcanwga.com and click on the Square Foot Campaign logo displayed on the home page. This will give provide more information about the campaign, and allow potential donors to fill out information and donate through the Web site.