To make life better for domestic violence victims, U Care, Inc. is always hosting events to bring in money for the organization.
But it’s not enough to help hundreds of people going through the struggle. Director Pamela Gonzalez believes a new website is going to help with fundraising efforts and community outreach. U Care recently launched www.ucarenc.com, following approval from the board of directors. Gonzalez hopes awareness increases through the development.
“That’s going to be a big plus because that’s going to get more people to check out the site,” Gonzalez said. “We would like to see U Care become an everyday symbol of hope.”
A donate link includes instructions and several ways to send funds. Along with mail, donations may be submitted through PayPal or a credit card. Some of the features include campaigns related to domestic violence, links to social media, and resources to get help during emergency.
The website for U Care was first developed in the late 90s with assistance of Dr. Arthur Apolinario. It was updated over the years, but it wasn’t taken to major level. In the fall, marketing researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington visited U Care as a way to study a nonprofit in rural communities. To assist with fundraising efforts when U Care is waiting for grant reimbursements, a suggestion was made to collect donations online.
“That seems to be an issue with all nonprofits, not just U Care,” Gonzalez said. “It seems to be a constant battle for them to come up with ways to survive. Their solution was online fundraising.”
Annual traditions such as the Reverse Drawing are a good resource for fundraising, but U Care can use a lot more. Shortly after, U Care was contacted by Robin Walston, an officer on the U Care Board of Directors, for the site. Gonzalez said it was perfecting timing and a blessing from God. Walton was one of the first volunteers to work with Gonzalez when she became the director. He called her a pioneer when it came to taking woman to court, especially for out-of-county locations.
“He sent me Robin,” she said. “She was really a lifesaver.”
Walston’s daughter Sarah-Rachel Price is assisting with the website fundraising efforts too.
“She picked this up and took off with it,” Gonzalez said.
A new feature of the website is a forum and blog section for visitors to provide information to each other in a confidential matter.
“I believe this new website will continue to adapt into a useful tool for the community,” Price said. “I’m really excited about the new forum especially, I have high hopes that through the stories of survivors, women will be empowered to seek the help of U Care.”
“The good thing is that if someone from Sampson County is looking for useful information, they can get it from the forum too,” Gonzalez said about local ties to resources. “They can go there and talk to people to get input. It’s designed to be a system of support even if they left the situation.”
The header of the website contains an “escape” tab, which sends the page to Google if they’re afraid about an abuser sneaking up on them. With one click, they’re away from the page. More developments will be added to the website. One idea was to develop an app for smartphones.
Gonzalez is also proud of the testimonial page which includes hand-written notes from victims who received assistance. One of them reads “I came here in pain, suffering, and sad, but U care helped me lift myself up.”
The site contains a new volunteer application section for people to help. Gonzalez said this will save people from making a trip to the shelter to sign up. Some of the opportunities include working in the The Bee Hive thrift store, making repairs at the shelter, babysitting or assisting with daily operations at the office. A new virtual call center will allow volunteers to help U Care by spreading awareness about the organization while asking for donations. Gonzalez described it as an online telethon.
U Care operates a 24/7 emergency shelter and other services to help victims through the process.Some of it include support groups, court advocacy, sexual assault and rape prevention and crisis intervention. Currently, 15 people are living in the shelter. Since July 2017, the shelter has helped 549 adults and more than 1,000 children.
“It’s not enough to just put someone in a shelter,” Gonzalez said. “The goal of U Care is to break the cycle and in order to break the cycle it’s not enough to just get them out of it. You have to give them the tools to get out.”
Gonzalez said most shelters give victims a temporarily home for 21 days, but she believes it’s not enough time for them to collect aid and resources. At U Care, the stay is about 45 days and she said it’s a way of not just putting a Band-Aid on problem.
“If the social services has not come in 45 days, how are we going to kick them out? They don’t even have their food stamps yet,” Gonzalez said. “We take it on a case-by-case basis and everything is different depending on what you have when you come in.”