Personal safety is something many take for granted. For some individuals in our community, however, it is a concern of daily survival—often within their own homes. The Cocoon, a shelter, and advocacy organization, houses, educates and assists victims of sexual and domestic violence in our region. The 501(c)3 organization will host a fundraising dinner, “Unmasquerade,” at 6pm Friday, June 22 at Nazareth Hall (21211 W. State Rte 65, Grand Rapids). All proceeds from ticket sales will go toward further programming and initiatives for The Cocoon.
The event’s featured guest speaker is author and activist Leslie Morgan Steiner, most known for her book “Crazy Love,” a self-portrait of her experience living through, and surviving, domestic violence. Her 2012 TED talk, “Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave,” made a significant impact on abuse survivor advocacy.
Giving out hope
The Cocoon’s programming and available services have expanded considerably since it first opened its doors in 2005. The Bowling Green-based shelter began primarily as a safe housing option for victims of domestic violence; over time, the nonprofit has expanded its available resources to include education, community outreach, and assistance to sexual assault victims. Aside from a recent relocation and expansion project, the services have grown in response to the community’s needs. “We rely solely on grants and donations to support us, and provide services to survivors at no cost,” said Executive Director Kathy Mull. “The challenge is recognizing that domestic and sexual violence exists in our community, and wanting every survivor to know they are not alone and that we are here for them when they are ready,” Mull added.
Development Coordinator Claire Heath explained that currently, shelter services are just 10 percent of the current workload for staff. In addition to safe, temporary housing, The Cocoon also provides crucial resources such as financial literacy programs, crisis intervention, and no-cost rape kit testing. A new emphasis on those programs comes from an increased community need. “[The Cocoon] was full the day it opened its doors,” Heath said. “To this day, we serve women and children, as well as male survivors [ . . . ] anybody at all is welcome, regardless of gender identity or age.”
Heath said that the Unmasquerade will be an opportunity for the nonprofit to connect on a deeper level to local residents. “Any support from ticket sales will go right toward funding our services,” she said. Aside from Steiner’s anticipated presentation, the fundraiser dinner will also serve as a networking event for like-minded individuals, businesses, organizations and advocacy groups who may want to collaborate with The Cocoon. According to Heath, one of the nonprofit’s goals is to further their general accessibility by engaging other organizations whose causes and/or missions align.
“Our existence provides a safe place for survivors in Wood County to receive all of the services they need, empowers those affected by abuse, works to bring awareness to this critical issue and plays a role in making our community a safer place,” Mull said.
Individuals seeking assistance or protective services can reach out to The Cocoon at 419-352-1545.