Turning Point helping those in need this Christmas

Shelter for domestic violence survivors grateful for community support

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 17, 2015

 Turning Point CEO Sue Coats stands proudly next to the Christmas tree displayed at the Mount Clemens shelter.

Turning Point CEO Sue Coats stands proudly next to the Christmas tree displayed at the Mount Clemens shelter.

Photo by Julie Snyder


MOUNT CLEMENS — Sue Coats, CEO of Turning Point in Mount Clemens, said the outpouring of support that the nonprofit organization receives on a regular basis never ceases to impress her.

After an accidental fire displaced more than a dozen women and children at the domestic violence shelter this past June, financial support from people and businesses across Macomb County and metro Detroit came swiftly, and they were all able to return within a week.

“The community really helped get us back on our feet,” said Coats. “We’re fully operational again, which is great.”

One would think that Coats would be used to such selfless generosity; she’s been working with the shelter for more than 20 years.

“So many people do so much to help us; the fundraisers and donations are what keep us going,” she said.

One new charitable project that’s not just aiding Turning Point, but shelters across Michigan, is the Christmas Carol Purse Project. Those contributing to this popular endeavor donate a gently used purse that is filled with items such as soap, powder, perfume, a hairbrush, a scarf, socks or gloves, or whatever else they want to put inside. It’s a co-project of Turning Point’s Handbags for Hope. Purses have already been donated to Turning Point for this Christmas, and they are no longer accepting them.

Turning Point has been helping victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence for four decades. The mission is to provide programs and resources that enable these individuals the insight and confidence to regain control of their lives.

Turning Point provides a 50-bed shelter, a 24-hour crisis line, a prevention education program, counseling and support groups, advocacy services, children’s services, a forensic nurse examiners program, and the store Second Hand Rose. Turning Point’s services work together to address the immediate crisis of domestic and sexual violence, and provide the support needed to begin the longer-term road to healing and self-determination.

According to Coats, Turning Point answers an estimated 12,000 crisis calls per year, and in 2014 sheltered a little more than 500 women and children. Currently, there are 40 women and children staying at the shelter; a majority of the children are infants and toddlers.

Jenn Emerick, children’s services coordinator, said Turning Point offers support to those younger residents who may be having a difficult time adjusting to the traumatic change in their lives — which is when, yet again, those monetary donations are put to use. The staff provides a care package gift called “My Stuff.” The kit contains both essentials like a toothbrush and toothpaste, and comforting items like a soft blanket and a stuffed animal.

“Sometimes it’s hard for kids when they come here,” said Emerick, adding that her department also offers recreational services, homework aid and summer programs for the children. “Some come with nothing of their own except what they’re wearing. It’s nice that they have some things to call their own.”

The residents are able to come and go from the shelter during the day. Some rely on public transportation, whether it be to medical appointments or their jobs, school or a job interview.

They’re also able to leave if they need to get some much-needed Christmas shopping done.

Coats said calls to domestic violence hotlines tend to drop over the holiday season. However, many families will experience their holidays in a shelter without their extended family or friends.

“This is an extremely tough time for families in shelter,” she said. “It is often a time of grieving on top of uncertainty about where they will live, how they will support themselves, and how they can keep themselves safe.”

But there is also some healing as a result of being able to share these hard times with others in similar circumstances.

“The women lean on each other and find strength from sharing and creating new memories and traditions,” Coats said. “For many, it is the first time they have experienced a holiday without the threat of violence. They are very grateful that the community thinks about them, and it truly uplifts them and helps them get through the tough moments.”

Turning Point’s shelter expects to be at or near capacity over the Christmas holiday. 

“Many expect it would be a sad atmosphere, but actually most are hopeful and grateful to be safe and have the opportunity for a new beginning for themselves and their children,” Coats said.

She said they traditionally celebrate the Christmas holiday with the residents holding their own wrapping party on Christmas Eve. They talk and share holiday memories, and on Christmas morning, the children get to open presents from under the Christmas tree. There’s also plenty of food, “a large spread,” Coats explained, that all can enjoy at their leisure throughout the day.

“We try to normalize it and accommodate their tradition,” said Coats. “So it’s like a normal Christmas for everyone.”

For more information or to become involved, visit www.turningpointmacomb.org. For more information about the Christmas Carol Purse Project, email purseprojects@gmail.com.