The Friendship Home in Lincoln is fundraising online this year because of the pandemic.

The Friendship Home of Lincoln’s annual Safe Quarters fundraiser has gone digital this year. Typically, Safe Quarters is a fundraising event involving volunteers going from door to door and asking for donations to help women and children in domestic violence situations find emergency shelter and rebuild their lives. This year, the platform for collecting donations may be different, but the fundraising mission is still the same.

Safe Quarters 2020 began on Oct. 19 and will be running until Oct. 31. Volunteers will be using crowdfunding pages  to collect donations, and are encouraged to invite family and friends to help them with their fundraising efforts. 

“The way it will work this year is that we will utilize volunteer team captains from past years, and they will essentially create a team to fundraise,” said Dani Bryant, assistant development director at Friendship Home. “We’re then asking each team captain to start with a goal of $400. And to achieve that goal, they would have to ask 20 of their closest friends, families, neighbors to donate $20.”

Friendship Home serves nearly 1,500 individuals per year and 60% of those sheltered each year are children.

“We had a mom and her two children come stay with Friendship Home over a year ago,” said Friendship Home’s community outreach coordinator, Nichole Palmer. “The mom told us that when her daughter went into their bathroom, which Friendship Home volunteers had filled with supplies, her daughter began to cry–  “Mom there is a brand new brush, they thought of everything,” she said.

It is being able to help families like these and hear about their survival stories, that Palmer says is one of the most rewarding things about working for Friendship Home. However, there are also challenges. One of which, she notes, is knowing that there is a waiting list of over 20 people seeking services from Friendship Home almost every day. Fundraisers like Safe Quarters are essential to helping victims of domestic abuse in and around Lancaster Country remove themselves from unsafe situations and get a fresh start.

“Safe Quarters originally started to help Friendship Home keep our shelter doors open,” Palmer said. “Now, Safe Quarters funds safe emergency shelter, transitional housing, support groups, economic empowerment classes and other programs to help victims of domestic violence rebuild their lives.”

In addition to raising money for Friendship Home programs, Safe Quarters is also an event that aims to raise awareness for survivors of domestic violence. 

“In addition to Safe Quarters fundraising efforts, one of the big parts of the event is walking through neighborhoods  and bringing awareness to Friendship Home,” Bryant said. “This year, we couldn’t do that, so we’re doing a few different awareness campaigns to help get our message across.”

This week, for instance, Friendship Home has collaborated with 1011 to create a news series entitled Empowering Freedom from Domestic Violence. Each night on the evening news Friendship Home had a different part of their services highlighted through this new series. Some of these services include crisis services, emergency shelter and transitional housing, which have become increasingly important since the pandemic hit.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, many individuals are spending more time at home. However, remaining in the home for longer periods of time is a more daunting task for those in domestic abuse situations than it is for others. In many cases, it can even be dangerous.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which serves over 600 people per day, roughly 10% of all callers cited COVID-19 as a condition of their experience. This means that 10% noted COVID-19 impacted their situation – whether an abuser was using COVID-19 to further control and abuse them, or if a resource, like a shelter, was unavailable due to COVID-19.

“With the pandemic, we initially saw a decrease in our crisis line calls and waiting list numbers and we knew this was due to the isolation of victims.  Many times a victim’s opportunity to call is when their abuser has left for work or a trip to the store,” Palmer said.  “But with the pandemic, many people were working from home or may have lost their jobs.  The stress at home may have escalated the violence and did not allow an opportunity for victims to reach out.”

By placing domestic violence resources online, it not only makes fundraising safer, it also makes gaining resources and awareness more accessible.

“At Friendship Home, we really try our best to empower women and children that are fleeing domestic violence situations,” Bryant said. “One of our biggest goals is that we get our message into every household in Lincoln (and) Lancaster County because you never know when someone might need it.”

Senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Journalism, AD/PR and German majors.