Each year, Mayo Clinic provides support to local groups that address unmet needs in the communities Mayo serves. This holiday season, Mayo is providing an extra gift to support the Women’s Shelter in Rochester.
Amanda is 29, has five children and had been in a mentally and physically abusive relationship for 11 years.
“It all started when I was pregnant with our first child. I was 17, scared and vulnerable. He slapped me because I asked him where he was going one night,” Amanda says. “He made me leave high school. That was the beginning of a rollercoaster relationship that ended this month.”
Amanda found the support she needed to make a change through the Rochester Women’s Shelter.
Originally from Texas, Amanda and her children have bounced between Rochester and Texas for the past several years. Her husband was looking for work, and Amanda was caring for her sick mother in Rochester. The children and the abuse kept coming.
“One night, he beat me so badly my mouth was broken. I had bruises all over my body. I was pregnant, and he tried to run me down with the car. No one believed me,” she says. “That was when I finally realized the apologies, the promises to change and the brief periods of peace were not going to last.”
And that’s when she found hope for a better future for her and her children.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘My children need a father.’ But I got to the point of despair,” she says. “When he started to heavily use drugs, disrupt my employer and stalk my every move, I knew I had to get out for survival.”
It’s the kind of story Suzie Christenson, executive director of the Rochester Women’s Shelter, knows too well.
“Domestic abuse is a story of chronic control: of the money, the major decisions, the home, the emotions. Often, it is deep-seated jealousy of the victim. Physical abuse is the result,” Christenson says. “In the end, everyone wants the same things in life: respect, a safe home, a family and security. Nobody wants to be abused. But, often, it takes a crisis to get the courage to make a change. I am so proud of Amanda and amazed by the resilience of her children. They are thriving in school.”
Mayo’s gift supports women’s shelter
This Christmas, the Women’s Shelter will be home to 41 people, 21 of whom are children. That’s well beyond their capacity. Each year, the center helps 3,000 people and 400 in-house residents.
At the last Mayo Clinic Community Engagement Contributions Committee meeting of the year, members decided to give the shelter an additional $20,000 in December.
“This amazing surprise gift will make our holiday so much better,” Christenson says. “It will be placed in our Client Assistance Fund and used for those items grants just don’t cover [such as] money to get on their feet, rent deposits, emergency car repairs, unpaid utilities. And, of course, through our generous community, we will have presents for the children, holiday meals and decorations — all part of establishing new abuse-free holiday traditions.”
And Amanda? She will spend the holiday counting her blessings with her children and mother. And she will look forward to a new year of continuing education, meaningful work and independence.