The Dove Center could be described as "the little agency that could". The agency began as a grassroots effort by a small group of community members who saw the need for victim services over 24 years ago. They opened a small, one room office, that initially focused on information dissemination and some hotline work. It became evident very quickly that there was a demand for expanded services, including shelter, 24 hour access to services, counseling, and advocacy.
With the help of the local Community Action agency, the group secured funding to open a small shelter (4 tiny bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and a tiny living room/kitchen area), which also housed a few counseling offices. This was a huge success, and was certainly better than no services at all. However, the demand for services very quickly grew, and that facility was not meeting the needs of those seeking shelter, or counseling. In 2001, the agency began what would be a 10 year long project, to plan, fundraise, and secure grant funds, to build a new facility, to house administrative, counseling and shelter.
In 2012, after a successful Capital Campaign, several successful grant proposals, and the efforts of several key individuals, the new facility was completed. It stands today as a permanent symbol of safety and healing for victims in Western Maryland and surrounding areas.
An average of 500 victims per year receive services at the Dove Center, including shelter, hotline, counseling, advocacy, and accompaniment. Only a small percentage (5% or less) are duplicate clients (clients who returned for the same reason, in the same year), which illustrates the success of our programs. Our program has gained accolades that have also attracted individuals from the surrounding area, and even other states, to come to our agency for shelter and other services.
In addition to our direct services, the Dove Center engages in exhaustive community outreach and education efforts, including information tables, speaking engagements, window displays, bulletin boards, brochure distribution, billboards, movie theater slides, social media, and many other activities.
Some of the aspects that make our program unique are: 1.)The ability to house cats and dogs of shelter victims on-site. Last year, we acquired a grant through the RedRover Foundation, and we now have 3 large cat condos, and 3 outdoor dog kennels containing high quality dog houses. We have a partnership with a local veterinary care provider to get care for pets as necessary. 2.) We have 2 counselors who provide services in our local schools on a daily basis. They are providing counseling to students who have witnessed domestic violence or have been victims of abuse, and they also conduct prevention activities. 3.) We have two counselors who are currently completing requirements to become Certified Addictions Counselors, so as to provide substance abuse and victimization counseling concurrently. 4.) We have an excellent working relationship with our local Community College. We have a counselor on site twice per month, offering counseling hours, as well as information and referral, and prevention activities. We are currently expanding that program and will be a part of the annual student orientation, and will participate in the implementation of the One Love Program on campus.
We are constantly striving to expand and enhance our programs and services, however, funding remains one of our biggest challenges. So often, state and federal grants are renewed at the same amount, year after year, or even decreased. We engage in many fundraising activities throughout the year, however, those activities do not provide enough revenue to fill the gap between our annual expenses, and annual grant revenue. For this reason, we rely heavily on donations as well.
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to fundraise through the Purple Purse Foundation and Crowdrise. This is a chance to raise funds that will be crucial to maintaining, and enhancing our programs in the coming year.