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October 30, 2013

Leadership Duncan Classes make big contributions

Class XVII makes donation to women’s haven

DUNCAN — Women’s Haven will now be able to get a $10,000 matching grant, after receiving a final check from Leadership Duncan Class XVII Monday night.

More than $14,000 was raised by the class of 21, through a golf tournament held in September. A few of the class members were able to attend Women’s Haven board meeting Monday for the final official presentation totalling $14,644.42.

A mock check presentation was made during the golf tournament, but not all the proceeds had been tallied. After expenses and final donations, many mailed directly to Women’s Haven, more than $16,000 had been raised.

During the nine month program of Leadership Duncan, several projects had been discussed that would benefit the community. As the projects were researched and the pros and cons discussed, some were eliminated. It wasn’t until near the end of the program that Women’s Haven was mentioned. Class member Susan Nutt Baker was the driving force behind the project and discovered just how much the facility needed assistance. One of the things was a $10,000 matching grant that had a looming deadline.  

Women’s Haven’s director Teresa Biffle was already on the list of speakers for the social services day. She was completely unaware that the questions being asked by class members were helping them with their decision.

At Monday’s meeting, she talked about how she had left Leadership session thinking how serious everyone was in their questions. When she later learned the agency had been chosen as a class project, she was very excited.

“Just overjoyed that we had been selected. That a group of people from the community had chosen our agency, especially since there were several agencies. Some of the burden had been lifted as an agency,” Biffle said.

In March, Biffle told The Banner that the state grants being impacted by sequestration would trickle down and affect the agency. That was the equivalent of two salaries.

“It didn’t affect us as bad as we thought it was going to and it was really scary at that time,” she said Tuesday. They had six on staff at that time, but someone had left.

“We just haven’t been able to find a replacement. It’s difficult to find someone to be on call 24 hours and do the work we do. Now we are nervous again due to what is going on in our government.”

Receiving the unexpected donation did more for the agency staff than anyone anticipated.

“It’s very humbling to hear people come and say we want to help,” said Penny Gardner, director of education for Women’s Haven. “It’s very validating. They are saying, ‘we believe your work is worthwhile and we want do something.”

Though class members knew Baker’s involvement and push for selection of Women’s Haven, they may  have not realized just how instrumental and dedicated she was to the cause.

“Susan had come to my office and basically interviewed me and talked to me about our agency as a whole,” Biffle said. The two had met years ago, possibly through a Duncan Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Leadership Duncan happens to be a Chamber program.

Yet, Baker didn’t just stop in casually. On one visit, she spent four hours.

“We started brainstorming and talking about the building, clients in general and our staff. She got so involved,” Biffle said. Initially, before the class project idea, Baker had approached Biffle about offering to do makeovers for women clients. Women’s Haven is a strictly confidential agency, so no personal details were shared about any of the clients.

“She kept coming back to me to see how she could help in other ways,” Biffle said. That eventually led Baker to bring the agency’s mission to her fellow Leadership class members.

At the presentation Monday, fellow class member Scott Mathis acknowledged Baker’s role in the project, and wanted others to know just how much she had done.

Baker did say later that evening that sometimes it is difficult to get three people to work together, but she was proud to be a member of Class XVII — noting that all 21 classmates had worked together without argument on the project.

Biffle said Tuesday she had no idea this fundraiser would reach the total it did.

“It takes a lot of manpower and fundraising to do this kind of work. I think we will endeavor to take this on (finding an additional staff member).”

Women’s Haven Board President Keith Riddles also told his fellow board members and Leadership representatives how much the donation meant to everyone involved with the facility.

Those who were able to attend the check presentation from Leadership Duncan Class XVII, were Tim Garrett (briefly, as he stopped to drop off the check), Anita Slovak, Trina Roebuck Madden, Susan Baker, Artemio Ybarra, Toni Hopper, Scott Mathis and his wife, Tera, who is a graduate of LD Class XV.

Established in 1991, Women’s Haven is a United Way of Stephens County agency. Its goal is to assist victims of domestic violence and or sexual assault.

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