Laurel House seeks back-to-school supplies

Laurel House children's advocate Melodye Jemmott works with two of the nonprofit shelter's youngest residents. Classroom supplies are on the Laurel House "wish list" year-round, not just at back-to-school time. Submitted photo — Laurel House

EAST NORRITON >> The scores of women and children who show up at Laurel House’s domestic violence shelter are typically disoriented and frightened. They’ve left home in a hurry — frequently with nothing more than the clothes they’re wearing. Staples as diverse as diapers and toothbrushes were forgotten in the frenzy of seeking safety because — as these victims know all too well — priorities shift when you’re running for your life.

Laurel House maintains a wide-ranging “wish list,” and school supplies are among the items the nonprofit agency needs on an ongoing basis. That includes everything from glue sticks, markers and notebooks to the earbuds required for contemporary classroom computers … little things turned huge for a kid whose world has spun out of control.

“Laurel House is a comprehensive domestic violence agency serving all of Montgomery County,” Executive Director Beth Sturman says. “The Safe Haven Shelter is a nine-bedroom house which, on any given day, may be home to up to 27 women and children who come to the shelter due to being unsafe in their homes. As in any other home with children, ‘back-to-school’ is an exciting time. For children living in the Laurel House shelter, this may very well mean starting in a new school with all new classmates, a new bus route and none of their familiar school supplies from previous years.

“Families come to the shelter all year round and, often, with little but the clothes on their backs. Starting at a new school can happen at any time of the year for these children, and the need for new school supplies at Laurel House happens throughout the year as well.”

Providing them with the classroom tools they’ve left behind helps alleviate the fragility and vulnerability of the shelter’s youngest victims.

“The children’s program advocate at the shelter works closely with moms to make sure that their children are enrolled in school quickly and have whatever school uniform may be required as well as all needed school supplies,” Sturman says. “It’s reassuring for a child to know that while they may be ‘the new kid’ in school, and while other parts of their life may be in disarray, they have the right items in their age-appropriate backpack so that they fit in with their classmates as easily as possible.”

School supplies are also needed for the children living in one of Laurel House’s seven “transitional housing apartments” with their mothers.

“These children … as with the children in the shelter feel much more confident heading off to school with the right supplies and a new backpack,” Sturman says.

The Laurel House school supplies wish list includes backpacks, thin dry erase markers, styluses, earbuds, plastic sandwich bags and gallon bags, regular and thick glue sticks, glue bottles, 3-inch binders (zippered and non-zippered), binder dividers, colored pencils, pencil cases, markers, white T-shirts, wide-ruled notebooks, marbled notebooks, plastic folders with pockets (red, green, blue and yellow), erasers and scissors

Laurel House was created as “an emergency shelter for women and children fleeing an abusive home” in 1980. Nearly four decades later, the nonprofit agency’s staffers and volunteers serve hundreds of victims across a broad demographic spectrum that covers just about every social and economic level.

“Laurel House provides group and individual counseling in five locations throughout [Montgomery County], serving over 200 people each year,” Sturman says. “Laurel House’s Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) responds to domestic violence emergencies in collaboration with law enforcement and medical personnel around the clock and serves over 500 individuals and families each year. Many of the families served through our counseling program, and our DART team find themselves in need of financial assistance due to domestic violence even if they previously had been able to provide for themselves. School supplies and other items from the [Laurel House] wish list are shared between programs as needed and are always much appreciated by the families we serve.”

Laurel House’s main office is located at 180 W. Germantown Pike, East Norriton, and the agency has satellite sites in North Wales, Pottstown and Bryn Mawr. For information or appointments, call 610-277-1860.

Laurel House also sponsors Nicole’s Place (named for Nicole Rhoads Peppelman, a mother of three who was killed by her ex-husband in 2015) in The Marketplace at Huntingdon Valley, 2064 County Line Road, Huntingdon Valley. For information or appointments, call 267-699-0200.

Upcoming benefits and special events include Sept. 29’s Reuse, Repurpose, Restore a Life Fashion Show & Luncheon at PineCrest Country Club in Lansdale and Oct. 10’s Breaking the Silence Luncheon at Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill.

According to Sturman, the latter will give participants an opportunity to “shop for life-saving gifts for families that have been impacted by violence and learn about the legal aspects of domestic violence as told first-hand by District Attorney Kevin Steele and attorney Kristen Feden.”

The agency’s free-standing thrift shops — Marian’s Attic, 255 Town Center Road, King of Prussia (610-337-3068) and Laurel’s Loft, 1801 N. Broad St., Lansdale (215-368-6037) — are open year-round.

Details about attending its events, contributing to its wish lists or volunteering are available at Laurel House’s main office, 610-277-1860 and laurel-house.org.

To reach Laurel House’s 24/7 (365 days a year) emergency hotline, call 1-800-642-3150.

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