How Are Mary Kay's Shelter Grants Playing Out?

Back in October, we covered the latest round of grants for domestic violence prevention from the Mary Kay Foundation. Since around 2001, the corporate funder has been a reliable giver in this space, with total gifts topping $38 million. Through its Shelter Grants program, Mary Kay usually funds 150 domestic violence shelters a year, giving each one $20,000.

These are unrestricted grants, letting shelters allocate the resources to whatever they need most. Says Mary Kay Foundation board member Anne Crews, “[Unrestricted funding] has often made the difference between keeping the doors open or closed, maintaining a critical service or providing a life-saving safe place for a family in need.”

Even more than other types of social service work, arguably, domestic violence shelter work requires on-the-ground experience dealing with victims’ needs and traumas. This year’s grants went out to a wide array of shelters across the country, and we’re following up on how some of them are using their Mary Kay grants. 

For one thing, shelters are physical spaces as well as support networks. Many grantees dedicate the money to repairs and renovations. They include Serenity House in Moultrie, Georgia and the Ocala Domestic Violence Center in Ocala, Florida, which is considering using the money toward purchase of expanded facilities. Hotlines are another key resource many shelters offer, and they aren’t free, either. In Ohio, YWCA Dayton’s domestic violence shelter operates a 24-hour hotline that it’ll fund with its grant, paying for staff to provide callers with free intervention, safety planning and community referral services.

Other shelters, like this Family Crisis Center in Georgia, are hiring additional staff, in this case, a part-time counselor to run evening groups for women and teenagers. Another recipient, Brighter Tomorrows in Suffolk County, New York, is using the grant to pay for bilingual counseling and legal advocacy.

Especially where affordable housing is in short supply, domestic abuse and homelessness can go hand-in-hand. Victims can lack the means to find a place to live, and shelters cannot provide indefinitely. Oxnard, California’s Coalition for Family Harmony will use its Mary Kay grant to fund a transitional housing program, giving victims a place to live as they escape from violence.

One key to reducing domestic abuse is changing the behavior of the perpetrators, most of whom are men. One 2016 grant recipient, the Blackburn Center in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, operates “Men as Allies” to recruit and train men who want to advocate against domestic violence and act as positive role models for younger men. This seems like a good tactic, well worth funder attention. Changing the culture of normalization that leads some men to abuse their partners might make the behavior less widespread in the future.