Volunteering at Mary’s Place

By Olivia Burley

A few weeks ago I participated in a domestic violence discussion group service shift at Mary’s Place in downtown Seattle. I was humbled and deeply affected by the experience.

Mary’s Place is a day shelter for homeless women and their children that provides basic human services resources (food, clothing, and showers) as well as support services for legal and financial aid, medical care, and employment referrals. It’s the only homeless shelter in King County that welcomes women with their children.

The domestic violence discussion group was created by Junior League member Jenn Miller who was impacted by her first volunteer experience at Mary’s Place and wanted to find a way to significantly help the group of women the organization serves.

Marty Hartman, executive director at Mary’s Place, shared that being there for the women at Mary’s Place and allowing them to feel heard can make a real difference. Jenn’s requirement for Junior League members who participate in the discussion group: “Please do not sign up if you’re not willing to talk and engage in a candid conversation about domestic violence.”

A requirement that I intended to fulfill, but which I failed miserably.

I was overwhelmed as we sat in a circle of nearly 15 women. It was impossible for me to do more than nod in agreement, smile encouragingly, lean in to give my undivided attention, and touch the arm of the woman next to me when she became choked up with emotion.

I didn’t have words.

The obstacles these women are facing are heartbreaking. The strength, resiliency and camaraderie they demonstrated were inspiring. I am grateful for Mary’s Place for providing essential services and a community for these amazing women.

And, I’m grateful for the Junior League of Seattle for the opportunity to connect with Mary’s Place and meet the women there – women who are truly examples of courage and perseverance.

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