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“We should be too big to take offense and
too noble to give it.”

—Abraham Lincoln
Nonprofit Helps Victims After Shelter Stays

Domestic violence shelters provide refuge for women trying to get out of abusive relationships. But that help is often temporary, and if victims haven’t gotten their lives back on track before their shelter stay expires, they often end up going back to their abusive spouses because they have nowhere else to turn.

That’s what spurred Gail Guge of Upland to help start Purple Hearts—a nonprofit dedicated to supporting local women and children rebuilding their lives from domestic violence.

“Shelters, by their very nature, are focused on the front end,” Gail said. “We wanted to start an organization that focuses on what we call the back end.”

Gail began volunteering at House of Ruth—a local domestic violence shelter—after moving to California with her husband in 1998. She helped victims get accustomed to shelter life and volunteered in clinics to help victims secure restraining orders against their abusers.

But she noticed something. Many victims returned to their abusers after their 18-month stay at the shelter was up.

“It’s so difficult and overwhelming that they feel like they can’t make it and feel forced to go back,” Gail said. “It was so devastating to watch this.”

Gail and Jill Kendrick, another volunteer at the shelter, established Purple Hearts in 2000 eventually adding self-sufficiency workshops for domestic violence victims.

“We plotted out all of the common denominators that kept tripping them up,” Gail said.

The nonprofit works with the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board to provide victims with job training and to connect them with employment opportunities, and they work with local affordable housing groups to find low-cost housing.

Through CityLink—a program offered through Water of Life Church in Fontana—the group connects domestic violence victims with mechanics who perform basic maintenance on their vehicles and provide them with expert advise for major repairs.

Staff from the District Attorney’s Office talk to victims about how they can file claims with the California Victims Compensation Fund to pay for medical and other expenses related to the abuse they suffered.

Purple Hearts also provides victims with basic essentials such as furniture and clothing, as well as a gift certificate to Wal-Mart so they can purchase household items they will need.

“It just removes that huge hurdle they have to get over once they get into permanent housing,” Gail said.

The nonprofit is in the process of partnering with another local domestic violence shelter, and they were also recently contacted by a shelter in Ohio that’s interested in starting something similar.

“We’d really like to know if what we are doing can be replicated at other shelters,” she said. “We think we are on to something here.”

Visit for more information about this local nonprofit.
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