Imagine this: You stand in your doorway and think about one thing in your home that means something to you – a sentimental photo, a favorite garment, a beloved pet. Now imagine closing the door and leaving that thing behind, along with everything else. Kathy Welby-Moretti says that is what women who walk away from domestic violence situations are faced with: leaving their homes and everything in them, often forever. “Ninety-eight percent of the women never see their homes, even their towns, again,” says Welby-Moretti, the program director at Washbourne House, Ulster County’s Battered Women’s Shelter. “People don’t realize what courage it takes for a woman to leave. I’m looking for a grant now so that women can bring their pets to the Shelter, because that might be the thing that keeps them from leaving a domestic violence situation.”
With a capacity for housing 17 people at one time, the Shelter is operated by 15 paid employees and a staff of volunteers. The Shelter provides immediate safety for women and children in need, and attempts to maintain a supportive family atmosphere. “We’ve been full or almost full for the past six months,” says Welby-Moretti. “Every year we need to raise money, and things keep on getting more expensive, just like in your home. More people are donating on a local level, but in smaller amounts, and the need is greater.”
Welby-Moretti has worked passionately for Family of Woodstock for 26 years and is seeing the heartening return of women and grownup children who were there decades ago, who now want to work in the Shelter or somehow give back to the system that saved them. “When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a social worker. I can’t believe it’s been that long. I’m very grateful for this close-knit community of caring and generous individuals.”
Jean DesJardin learned about the plight of victims of domestic violence and came up with an original idea to raise funds for the Shelter. Three evenings of music, dancing and poetry held at the Colony Café in Woodstock bring in well over $1,000 each year. Now in its seventh year, the Goddess Festival celebrates women’s strength through performance. Eighty percent of all Festival proceeds are given directly to the Shelter, and 20 percent go to the hosting venue. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 9, 10 and 11, a full lineup of all-female-fronted world music, exotic dance and original poetry will honor the feminine.
Beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at 2 a.m. on Friday, the entertainment lineup includes Fre Atlast and the Community Drum Ensemble; Korean and fusion dancer Karen Kriegel of World Dance Initiative; Charlene “Perizad” Robert’s Twisted Gypsies; Lorah Yaccarino and Hemingway’s Cat; Hilary Lit Belly Dance; Doug with Wet Paint; the Veronica Kent Band; the eclectic music of Kali Z. Fasteau; Tamar Haviv; and the Di Cross Band. On Saturday evening (at the same times), a kirtan will be followed by more world dancing with Audie Belly Dance; Mamalama; then a talk on Walk about Water against fracking; Donna Barrett’s Wild Roses with dancers Elena Mosley, Amanda Karch, Annette McConnell, Aryn Kanaga, Beth Alfeld, Courtney Lueck and Theresa Hyson and partnered with Mosley’s Kuumba Dance and Drum; Queen Mother Imakhu with Priestess Khepri-t; Gogo Nana Goddess Lovelight with the unique and vibrant fashion of Eunika Simmons; the Willow Belly Dance Troupe; Aleah Long; eclectic music from Deejay Hrana; and closing the night with Arabic/Middle Eastern Dance by Sunny/Sonali Sultana. A donation of $12 is requested at the door each night.
On Sunday, March 11 from 5 to 8 p.m., the seventh annual Woodstock Goddess Poetry Festival will take over the Colony Café, with Teresa Costa hosting a wide-open reading. That means, bring some poems to share and let it rip for five minutes. Guest poets Sue Wilens, Victoria Sullivan, Richard Treitner, Patricia Martin, Susan Hoover, Pamela Twining and Costa will be on hand to keep the evening fresh. Admission is $7 to benefit the Ulster County Battered Womens Shelter. Come celebrate the spoken word. For more information about the poetry event, call (845) 331-6713 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concurrently, a special show of artworks by and about women is on exhibit at the “Goddess/Women’s Art” exhibition at the Varga Art Gallery, including works by Joanne Goshen, Melissa Kucia, Karyn Mannix, Bruce Morse, Jacqueline Ravida, Nuie Corbeau Reith, Faye Storms, Richard J. Treitner, Christina Varga and Regina Walker. The “Goddess/Women’s” show will be on exhibit until March 18.
DesJardin says, “Everyone has feminine energy – even men. We hold the Festival in March each year to bring in the spring – to bring in the new life, just like the Goddess.”
The Colony Café is located at 22 Rock City Road in Woodstock. For more information about the Festival schedule, visit www.facebook.com/#!/events/133841910065883/.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to domestic violence,” says Welby-Moretti. “Some women have husbands who are heads of corporations; some are undocumented and are afraid not only of their husband, but also afraid of authorities.” She explains that part of the cycle of violence is isolation, so that the only person a woman gets information from is her abuser. “We try to break that cycle and tell them what their options are, so they can learn to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.”
Services offered through the program include emergency shelter, a food pantry, advocacy and outreach, peer support groups, case management and legal advocacy and a 24-hour hotline. The Shelter is currently in dire need of a new van to transport families and take children on outings safely. As a part of Family of Woodstock, Inc. and the United Way, contributions and donations to the Shelter are tax-deductible. For more information, visit www.familyofwoodstockinc.org/contact.html and call the hotline at (845) 338-2370.