By Kim Robertson
For the Leader

Mazing Matthias of St. Louis performs at Comtrea’s Mardi Gras fundraiser.

About 250 people turned out Saturday for the second annual Mardi Gras Ball, raising more than $32,000 for A Safe Place, a domestic violence shelter run by Comtrea, which provides mental health and medical services, said Kim Elbl, the Jefferson County agency’s fundraising coordinator.

Both the attendance and the money raised at the event were up from the previous year, Elbl said.

“The event was a huge success,” she said. “We made a lot of friends, and women gave a very compelling presentation about their experience and services they’ve gotten at the shelter.”

Elbl said the money from this year will be used to build a playground and bike path at the shelter, which houses women and children, and to install privacy fencing around it.

She said A Safe Place also helps men, but they aren’t housed at the shelter.

“We have other means of putting them up in a safe place as well,” Elbl said.

She said Comtrea has already received some bids for the playground and other additions at the shelter, and the work probably will start in the spring. “It (the improvements) will go in in phases,” Elbl said.

The Mardi Gras ball included a cocktail hour, live music, a Cajun dinner, auctions, carnival games and other entertainment.

“We had a fire breather and someone riding a unicycle and juggling and a guy who was stilt walking,” Elbl said.

She said A Safe Place offers free shelter and other services to domestic violence victims.

“The people who are residing at the shelter, everything is free. They receive counseling and group therapy and life skills training. We have domestic violence educational groups and provide court advocacy and recreational activities.”

Story Courtesy of Leader Publications


Organizations join to create more space for victims of domestic violence

By Tracey Bruce
For the Leader

Five years after Mary Daniels’ death at the hands of her estranged husband, Mary’s House of Hope – the organization family members created after the tragedy – and Comtrea are putting up $300,000 to begin an expansion of A Safe Place, Comtrea’s domestic violence shelter.

Daniels’ loved ones were galvanized to action after her Aug. 3, 2010, murder and started raising funds for a new shelter in January 2011. But now that the organization has reached its $100,000 fundraising goal, partnering with Comtrea to build additional housing at the existing shelter seemed like a better plan, leaders said.

Comtrea’s Board of Directors decided Feb. 8 to pledge $200,000 to begin the project, which is expected to cost about $1.3 million.

Early planning calls for breaking ground this summer on four to six housing units to provide lodging for individuals or families who need a place to stay while trying to get on their feet. Funding will determine how long it will take to complete the project.

“Everyone on the board (of Mary’s House of Hope) is very excited,” said Sylvia Daniels, Mary’s mother and vice president of Mary’s House of Hope. “We’re really appreciative of Comtrea’s board. Without their help and support we wouldn’t be here right now.”

Although the organization had originally planned to fund a separate shelter, members decided the most efficient way to bring help for victims of domestic abuse was to work with Comtrea to expand A Safe Place, said Kristy Neuman, president of Mary’s House of Hope.

“It was the only answer for us to get it built this quickly,” she said.

Liezye Feinburgh, left, of Jefferson County uses sign language to tell the crowd about abuse she suffered and help she received from “A Safe Place.” She spoke during a Feb. 6 Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser.

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