RUSKIN — There is no better music to the ears of Laurie Herring than the words she recently heard during a phone call from one of her former clients.
"I am happy, my children are happy," the woman said. "I never thought I would have the strength be happy again and be on my own."
Herring is executive director of the Ruskin-based Mary & Martha House, where women and their children who are victims of domestic violence receive shelter and where moms — with the support of one-on-one case managers -— reap job skills, receive help in finding employment, and are able to realize the dream of having permanent housing of their own.
The organization, with three separate facilities in the SouthShore area, is geared to accommodate 34 women and children at a time. Each family, depending upon their individual needs and abilities, is able to stay 90 days to one year.
The success rate of the program, founded in 1982, is an impressive 98 percent.
"The major frustration I face is not being able to accommodate even more families," said Herring, who came on board nine years ago and recently served as programs and housing director until December of 2017, when she took on the role as head administrator of the Mary & Martha House.
Prior to her employment with the organization, Herring spent 20-plus years also working directly with the homeless, domestic violence victims and people suffering with mental health issue.
She explained that when women arrive at the Mary & Martha House shelters, their lives are broken from the trauma they’ve endured and it is the organization’s mission to set them on a path toward healing, hope and ultimately happiness in living independent self-reliant lives.
"What drives me every day is knowing that together with our amazing staff, each of us is doing our part in making a difference in the lives of our women and children," Herring said.
But being successful in their roles takes money. And while the organization receives some government funding, the bulk of financial support is derived from private donors and fundraisers.
On Saturday (Feb. 10), the organization stages one of its biggest fundraisers: the third annual Mary & Martha House’s Color Stepping out Against Domestic Violence 5K Walk/Run event at E.G. Simmons Park , 2401 19th Ave. NW in Ruskin.
The entrance fee is $25 for participants 12 years of age and older, and sign up is available at marymarthahouse.org or in person the morning of the fundraising affair.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the chip-timed walk/run kicks off at 9 a.m. with participants releasing small bagsful of color-hued powder into the air.
"That’s why it’s called the color walk/run and it’s a fun time," Herring said, adding that folks are also welcome to disperse the environment-friendly powdery substance during the event.
Prize presentations and raffles will follow the walk/run, being billed as a family affair.
For more information contact Herring at (813) 645-7874 or [email protected]
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]