Christmas can be a difficult holiday to afford. For victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, however, it can be especially hard, advocates say.
"A lot of times when women have left an abusive partner and they're starting out own their own, they don't have a lot of resources," said Rene Pisel-Walker, the coordinator of volunteers at AWARE.
Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies is a nonprofit Juneau-based organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
To help give these women and their families a helping hand, and to show them that the community supports them, AWARE is holding the Sponsor a Family program this holiday season. Women and their families who have used AWARE's services within the last year are invited to be sponsored for the holidays by groups and individuals.
"I can't express how nice it is," said a woman who wished to remain anonymous, whose family has been sponsored twice. "For my girls to be have something to open. ... There would have been nothing."
Her family received coats, shirts and other clothing from sponsors, she said.
The sponsors, who also remain anonymous, include a local scouting troop, the employees of a state office, and a group of families. When they sign up for the program, they are matched with a family and given a list of the member's ages, genders and needs.
More sponsors are needed for this year's program, which already has matched 13 families with sponsors.
"Our program may not be as large as other programs in the community, but we try to focus on the people we serve," said Pisel-Walker.
Community members who have not been associated with AWARE but would like to be sponsored are referred to other programs such as those of the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Salvation Army.
Along with providing material goods, the program offers a psychological boost to AWARE clients, Pisel-Walker said. It "allows us to show the families that the community supports them. Families feel a lot of love and care, even though it's anonymous," she said.
In addition to sponsoring a family, those wishing to help can volunteer to wrap gifts at a wrapping party to be held from 2-8 p.m. Dec. 13. Volunteers also are needed for the children's holiday party at the shelter. For more information, contact Pisel-Walker at 586-6623.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.