Acoustic guitars and musical storytelling will provide the backdrop for Sistercare’s 10th Annual Song Bird Cafe.
The agency’s signature fundraising event begins at 7 p.m. today at Leaside, 100 East Exchange Place, and will support Sistercare’s efforts to assist abused women and children. This year’s featured artists include Jesse Lee, Tyler Mechem and Radney Foster.
Sistercare shelters, counsels and advocates for thousands of battered women and their children in the Midlands each year. Nancy Barton, Sistercare executive director, spoke about ongoing efforts to curb domestic violence and the significance of the anniversary event.
What excites you most regarding Sistercare’s progress during your tenure?
Barton: “Community support has been vital in helping Sistercare reach thousands of domestic violence survivors through the expansion of services. We started with one emergency shelter and an administrative office located in the basement of a building. Now we provide comprehensive services through three shelters, two children’s counseling centers, an administrative office and counseling center, and offices for community-based programs in five counties.”
So what’s been one of the most satisfying aspects of your job?
Barton: “What I find most gratifying are the stories from the women and children. Recently, a former shelter resident told me that a little girl whom she shared a bedroom with, ‘hugged me all night in bed, and I could tell she felt safe just like I felt safe my first night in the shelter.’ I have seen domestic violence victims in their darkest days become empowered and return to Sistercare as volunteers, staff and supporters. To see women who were once considered victims become domestic violence survivors and provide support to other victims is rewarding. I can’t tell you how many times a survivor has told me Sistercare saved her life.”
What are some of the biggest hurdles that remain for Sistercare and the larger effort to curb domestic violence?
Barton: “Unfortunately, significant hurdles remain that prevent us from effectively addressing and reducing domestic violence. In South Carolina, nearly one woman a week loses her life in a domestic homicide. In order for the state to have a seamless, coordinated community response to domestic violence, the abuser must be held accountable, receive consequences and treatment, and the victim must be assured of safety and resources to live a life free of violence.”
How did the Song Bird Cafe idea originate?
Barton: “Full credit must be given to two fine male volunteers: Jimmy Stephenson, president of Southern Way Catering, Inc., and Ricky Wright, owner of Hampton Hill Athletic Club. Jimmy and Ricky were creative, generous and serious about making the Midlands a safer place for domestic violence victims. They developed the idea of Song Bird Café, and their original idea has raised over $1.1 million for battered women and their children in the last 10 years.”
What have been some of the biggest benefits of Songbird?
Barton: “Raising over $100,000 year after year has benefited numerous battered women and their children in the Midlands. The funds have supported Sistercare’s shelter program, crisis line, counseling, legal advocacy, education and more. I am most excited about the number of committed men who are an integral part of the Song Bird Café and have stepped up to address the issue of domestic violence.”
What are among the least-known facts about domestic violence?
Barton: “One, domestic violence is not about anger and loss of control but rather it is about power and full control. After all, batterers do not regularly assault a bank teller, hairstylist, or grocery clerk when they get angry. Second, people often tell domestic violence victims to get out of the abusive relationship immediately. Although this seems like good advice and is offered with every good intention, the most dangerous time for victims is when they leave or attempt to leave the abusive relationship.”
So what can people do to help?
Barton: “Sistercare seeks volunteers who help with our community outreach efforts and speaking out against domestic violence. People can also help by generating educational opportunities and speaking engagements for Sistercare to inform the community about issues of domestic violence. We always need financial gifts, which go directly to support shelter services, transport victims out of state for safety, and provide children’s counseling and services for shelter residents’ pets. We appreciate cell phone donations as well.”
Tickets to Songbird are $100 per person and must be purchased in advance. To buy tickets call (803) 926-0505. To learn more about Sistercare or to donate, visit www.sistercare.com.