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McGuire: Volunteers power Family Shelter Services

Community voice

“I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.”  – Tracy Chapman, singer/songwriter.

We see this every day at Family Shelter Service. And we saw it when scores of volunteers – called our “event angels” – turned out April 11 for “Carnevale: A Celebration of Hope,” this year’s annual gala, helping raise nearly $200,000. Through the hard work of our volunteers and the generosity of our supporters, Family Shelter Service is able to offer life-altering programs to individuals overshadowed by domestic violence.

Founded in 1976, Family Shelter Service always has been an organization of volunteers. Volunteers staffed the first hotline, the organization’s original service, housed in a small office in a church basement.

It’s hard to imagine the courage of these early hotline volunteers, performing this labor of love, often working alone, hearing stories of suffering and pain – all in an era when domestic abuse was rarely mentioned – did not even have a name. 

Before Family Shelter Service had its own bricks and mortar facility, early founding families opened their homes, offering these women and children a safe haven until other arrangements could be made.

One of these early families reported they would sometimes receive a call in the middle of the night to pick

up a traumatized mother and her children, waiting on a street corner in the dark.

These volunteer “angels” helped to guide Family Shelter Service to where it is today, an organization serving 2,000 individuals each year who are affected by domestic violence. These early volunteers were part of something important, a community movement to offer safety to mothers and children with nowhere to turn.

We have come a long way as a society in acknowledging domestic abuse in our midst and offering help to those affected, but unfortunately, we see stories every day where domestic abuse becomes deadly. Women now more than ever need a community of support. Each day volunteers assist us at the courthouse, in our resale shops, administrative office and on our hotline. 

Our work continues and you can be a part of it. If you missed our annual Gala and would like to make a donation to our cause or learn more about volunteering, please visit Through the continued generosity of a supportive community, we can help people like our client, Gail, who wrote “I have become strong and strengthened my will to survive. This beautiful safe place does not only have to be in my dreams.”

Maureen McGuire is the marketing and communications representative for Family Shelter Service.

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