WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — For decades, First Step Incorporated has been providing free crisis intervention services for individuals who have experienced domestic or sexual violence.
When COVID-19 struck Wichita Falls it caused a 90% decrease in the donations First Step officials received to keep the organization afloat.
Crystal Fields is now a shelter aide advocate at First Step Inc.
“I first heard about first step when I was a in a domestic violence relationship,” Fields said.
It’s been three years since she first found solace in the organization because of the services it provides.
“I had a charge against my ex-husband now at the time and in order to drop the charges they wanted me to go to some educational classes for domestic violence,” Fields said. “They wanted me to be informed before I dropped the charges on my husband.”
That’s where First Step came in.
The non-profit promotes safe and healthy communities free from violence through outreach, education and supportive services, like its safe house.
“I remembered that and I came back and I used those resources later on and that was really beneficial to me because at the time I didn’t realize there was a place that I could go if I needed to leave,” Field said.
First Step’s Executive Director, Michelle Turnbow said it’s much more than providing them with a home.
“We also have our outreach center which is for those who don’t necessarily need the safe house but do need some counseling or group or some advocacy of some sort,” Turnbow said. “We work hard to not just let them come in here and be safe but we want to empower them, we want to help heal them and their families and get them in a better place.”
In doing this they hope to help change the culture of the repeat cycle of domestic violence and sexual assault in the community and it has proven effective since 1976.
Turnbow said it generally takes about $60,000 monthly to operate both locations, so imagine the setback they experienced when a global pandemic changed the trajectory of things last year.
“The year before, the fiscal year, we served about 450 clients in the house and that’s not including children,” Turnbow said.
Sexual assault and domestic violence cases increased during the pandemic but donations decreased by 90%.
“We’re gonna take a long time to get back I think with every nonprofit to really grow back to that,” Turnbow said.
They saw about 160 children in last year alone and Turnbow said those needs are growing that’s why the community’s help is so desperately needed.
In addition to monetary donations, First Step is also in need of items such as clothing, hygiene products, hair care products and more.
You can find details on how you can lend a helping hand here.
For crisis intervention, the 24-hour hotline number is 1-800-658-2683