The spell of overcast skies did little to dampen the spirits of guests at the “Springtime in a Bygone Era” fundraiser on April 21 benefiting Domestic Violence Solutions of Santa Barbara County held at the historic George Washington Smith Estate of Deborah and Stuart Fuss.
The mission of DVS is to end the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence by providing prevention and intervention services and changing society’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors to affect social change.
DVS is the only full-service nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focused solely on ending the cycle of domestic violence by providing confidential shelter to women and children, personal counseling and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
“We are delighted to open our house to DVS,” Deborah Fuss said. “They are an incredibly impressive organization. And, the fact that they provide emergency housing for people and programs for a lot of people who feel that it’s really hard to leave abuse relationships and have nowhere to go to get out of where they are. I think we are fortunate that our community has an organization like this.”
DVS has provided confidential emergency shelters and a range of support services to victims of domestic violence since participating in the CETA-funded “Violence in the Family” project in 1977, and opened up its first emergency shelter in Santa Barbara that year followed by additional shelters in Lompoc and Santa Maria.
Leesa Wilson-Goldmuntz co-founded the Springtime event with Patty Bryant 12 years ago.
“This event started in my backyard 12 years ago and since then the Springtime Committee has raised over $1 million in unrestricted funds for our clients at our three confidential emergency shelters,” Wilson-Goldmuntz said.
Guests clad in festive garden attire socialized on the beautiful expanse of lawn abundant with century-old Queen Anne palms, oak and array of fruit trees, centered by a large reflective pool that mirrored the lush mountainside beyond.
“I don’t think there is any room for domestic violence anywhere in a relationship, whether it’s your kids, wife, husband or whoever,” Connors said. “Anytime that something can be done to bring awareness to this issue and create solutions for people in crisis in our community to have an event like this that helps to make all that possible — how could you not want to be a part of that?”
Visitors strolled around the gardens or lounged on comfy lounge chairs around the pool sipping champagne and indulging in delicious hors d’oeuvres served by a friendly wait staff.
Special “Shelter Needs” gift baskets on display emphasized not only the emotional loss women and their children face as victims of domestic violence but also stressed the abandonment of an array of common utilitarian items required for daily survival.
The items included a “Full School Backpack,” filled with school supplies for children living in shelters who often change schools or need to replace school supplies left behind, and an “Essentials for a Fresh Start” basket filled with bedding, towels and toiletries for every member of the family and a $250 ready-to-wear gift voucher to local thrift and discount stores so families are able to replace clothing left behind or purchase proper attire needed for school and job interviews, and also representative items such as bedding, bunk beds, and kitchen appliances for the apartments that clients reside in.
Later, attendees were treated to an old-fashioned 1920s-themed dance contest performed by dancers from the Santa Barbara Dance Center and featured hoofers from around the globe sporting colorful glad rag attire.
Dancers kicked up their heels and charmed the audience with energetic dance moves, such as rumba, foxtrots and swing dancing. Each dance number roused the crowd of onlookers, who couldn’t help but clap their hands and tap their toes while singing along to the classic tunes of “Mrs. You” by Frank Sinatra and “Go Johnny Go” by Chuck Berry.
To heighten the fun, the dancers were playfully scrutinized or praised by a panel of actors who posed as famous celebrity judges Gloria Swanson (Katie Thatcher), Douglas Fairbanks (Laezer Schlomkowitz), Betty Sue (Cherilyn Milton) and emcee Clara Bow (Nancy Nufer).
The afternoon of fun boiled down to a pleasing simmer just in time for salutations and formal introductions.
Executive director Richard Kravetz thanked staff members, volunteers, sponsors and donors for helping to make the event possible with ongoing dedication and support.
“By attending this event, and by your generosity to DVS, you are making a difference in the lives of families in Santa Barbara County,” Kravetz said.
During his speech,Kravetz explained that DVS is dedicated to providing safe and confidential shelters to battered women and their children.
The emergency shelters provide a safe refuse for victims in crisis up to a duration of 45 days, and while in residence, clients receive a variety of comprehensive services, including individual counseling, food and clothing, and are provided with medical and legal advocacy, financial information and resources.
For women who have no place else to go and exceed the 45-day limit at the shelter, single women and women with children may enroll in the Second Stage transitional housing program that offers short-term residency in furnished one-bedroom apartments in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria for a period up to 18 months.
“Last year we provided confidential shelter for 311 women and children, and personal counseling to 910 individuals,” Kravetz said.
Even though violence is not solely a women’s issue, the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women. According to a study from Domestic Violence Statistics, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. And every day more than three women are murdered by husbands or boyfriends in the United States.
Kravetz noted that in Santa Barbra alone in 2011, 2,081 people called the DVS 24-hour Crisis Line, and trained DVS advocates responded to 582 domestic violence calls placed to 9-1-1 with law enforcement.
Additionally, DVS teen education and outreach programs such as the “What Is Love?” poster contest and Teen Service Advocates have helped educate more than 1,500 junior high and high school students about teen dating violence. The programs have shared how to cultivate healthy relationships skills and how to recognize and avoid forms of abuse in relationships.
In the agency’s ongoing quest to educate the public, DVS is offering 40-Hour Domestic Violence Training advocacy certification course, a series of classes that prepare participants to work directly with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
Training courses will be offered in two locations, and the first round of classes will be held in Santa Barbara from May 4 to July 20 and in Santa Maria from Aug. 13 to Nov. 5.
“The number of teens and families suffering the trauma of domestic violence tends to rise in times of economic hardship,” Kravetz said. “And in today’s difficult financial climate, the help that DVS provides is more critical than ever.”
DVS thanks the generous sponsors and donors for support of “Springtime in a Bygone Era,” including:
»Gold sponsors: Susan and Brett Caine, the Goldmuntz Family, Cindy and Steve Lyons, and Montecito Bank & Trust