Brighter Tomorrows gets United Way grant for the 'little things'
Brighter Tomorrows of Monroe County got a much-needed boost from Great Rivers United Way last Friday in the form of a $2,000 Venture Grant.
The staff at Brighter Tomorrows used the money to buy a wall of items, including laundry soap, toilet paper, feminine products, toiletries, gas cards and store vouchers.
Jan Bruder, Brighter Tomorrows project director, said her agency serves victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, many of whom have to leave unsafe situations, often with nothing.
"Some of the things people take for granted every day, these people can't" she said, adding many of them have children and are in need of diapers, laundry detergent, soap and toilet paper. "And just the little things like tooth paste and deodorant."
Liz Evans, community impact director for Great Rivers United Way, said the organization's Venture grants are designed to help programs with short-term needs. The grants range from $500 to $5,000.
She said Venture grants become available sporadically throughout the year and Great Rivers had $15,000 to distribute for this round. A total of 18 organizations applied for grants and only nine were funded. Brighter Tomorrows was the only one from Monroe County.
Bruder was appreciative of the grant, pointing out Brighter Tomorrows is funded through state, federal and local grants and private donations, none of which are guaranteed.
That can be a burden for the non-profit agency, which serves on average around 400 victims a year. Brighter Tomorrows offers them a wide array of services out of its main office in Sparta and its outreach office in Tomah.
"I always say we do a little bit of everything to help people," said Bruder.
While they help people find housing and services they may need, they also assist in filing restraining orders and other court support. In addition, they offer medical advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
"As advocates we're not here to tell people what to do, we're here to tell you 'these are your options, what would you like to do?'" said Bruder.
Brighter Tomorrows has provided services in Monroe County since 1996. It is part of Monroe County Shelter Care, which also has an adolescent group home, transitional living facility for adults with mental health and alcohol or drug addiction issues, as well as a supervision program.
Bruder urges victims of domestic violence or sexual assault to contact Brighter Tomorrows at (608) 269-7853, and callers don't have to come in if they don't want to.
She said she's talked with people on the phone for six months before they were ready to come in. And some prefer to keep their communication with the agency strictly over the phone.
"We're here to help," she said. "We're not here to tell you what to do. If you don't take one of our options, that's okay. We just want to know what you want and maybe that's just someone to talk to and we can be that person."