The Dove Center, Garrett County’s domestic violence and sexual assault program, began 2020 diligently working on their latest program development project. Having received a combination of Federal, State, and private funding over the past 2 years, the construction of 4 transitional housing units was nearing completion. These units would eventually house clients who begin their stay in the Dove Center’s emergency shelter, but are identified to have intensive needs such as lack of employment, employment skills, job experience, a support network, independent living skills such as budgeting, cooking, personal care, parenting, bill paying, a lack of resources necessary for independence, such as a driver’s license or other crucial documents, vehicle, daycare, and other needs. These intensive needs are often impossible to resolve in the scope of a 30-90 day emergency shelter stay. Residents of the transitional housing program will spend 6-24 months in the program, receiving intensive case management and advocacy, with the goal of overcoming those barriers to success and independence, while also working toward safety and long-term healing from trauma.

As the pandemic set in, it became clear that the year would not progress as planned. The Dove Center spent the next several months striving to continue services to the fullest extent possible under everchanging guidelines and mandates. Meanwhile, COVID-19 was creating the perfect storm for domestic violence and other types of abuse which thrive on control and isolation, even under normal circumstances. The pandemic became another tool in abusers’ arsenals, leading victims to delay reaching out for services until abuse has reached extremely dangerous levels. Economic and social stressors caused by the virus have also exacerbated the frequency and severity of abuse.

There is no denying the impact of domestic violence on entire communities. Texas Health Resources recently developed a Domestic Violence Cost Calculator. Inputting Garrett County census data, it is predicted that over the next year, at least 2,071 local victimizations will occur, leading to a projected $1,095,309 in medical costs, $550,973 in mental health costs, and a $351,637 loss in workplace productivity, for a total local economic cost of $1,997,919.

Victim Services organizations such as the Dove Center play a significant role in reducing the number of victimizations, and therefore, economic cost. However, to be fully effective, they must be fully funded and fully operational. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, The Dove Center recently made the agonizing decision to cancel its major annual fundraiser, the Festival of Trees. In place of a widely attended, multi-revenue two-day event, a simple on-line Christmas Tree contest will be held, thereby significantly decreasing revenue.

While the Dove Center is revered across the State as a leading program with a history of overcoming obstacles through innovation and creativity, Heather Hanline, Executive Director, states, “There are times that we simply need to ask the community for help. Everyone knows someone who has been impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. The impact is far and wide, and those who have not experienced a direct impact, have undoubtably been affected indirectly. This community has come through for us many times, and I am very grateful for the continued support during these unprecedented times.”

Hanline went on to say that there are many ways the community can help the Dove Center at this time. Room naming rights for the new units can be purchased as follows: Living room, $3,000 (4 available); Adult bedroom, $2,000 (4 available); Children’s bunkroom, $2,000 (2 available); and Children’s single room, $1,500 (2 available). Additionally, a $50 donation can pay for one bed-night in the emergency shelter. A $25 donation can pay for an adult counseling session. A $20 donation can pay for a child’s counseling session or a court accompaniment for a Protective Order. Additionally, those who usually attend or participate in the Festival of Trees in some manner could consider donating their usual investment in the event. Donations can be mailed to Dove Center, 882 Memorial Drive, Oakland, MD, 21550, or through the agency’s website, Individuals wishing to learn more about Dove Center services are encouraged to call the 24/7 hotline at 301-334-9000. General questions can be directed to the business office at 301-334-6255, Monday – Friday.