Grantee Spotlight: Branches of Monroe County
Since the inception of the Women’s Fund three years ago, we have awarded 18 grants totaling $240,250 to 15 exemplary organizations serving all 25 counties in our service region. We are so proud of this progress and thrilled that 2016 has brought even more opportunities to further our mission and transform the lives of low-income women and girls in East Tennessee.
As part of the grant process, we look for organizations, new opportunities, and programs that can be replicated to help break down barriers for these women as well as support our vision: every woman self-sustaining. Branches of Monroe County, a 2015 grant recipient, is one such organization that exemplifies our mission by helping women and children fleeing domestic violence achieve self-sufficiency and independence.
According to Branches founder and Executive Director Denise Hill, the nonprofit’s first priority is making sure the victims are safe. Then, the priority shifts to empowerment – helping the women make the best educated decisions for themselves and their families. “It’s a tricky scenario,” says Hill. “What you wish they would do is not always what they want to do. Our goal is to give them as much information as we can and to support them by providing options and helping them make informed choices,” she adds.
In addition to transitional housing, Branches offers emergency shelter, advocacy, life skills training (such as budgeting and parenting classes), case management, job search assistance, and operates Gallery & Re-store, a boutique featuring the work of local artists as well as gently-used clothing and household items. With help from the Women’s Fund, the nonprofit is also developing a workbook, Why Just Survive When You Can Thrive: Three Steps Forward?, an interactive, self-paced training tool that will be available through the shelter as well as state human-services agencies with hopes for an ebook soon.
After living through domestic violence firsthand, Hill says she felt compelled to find ways to help others break the cycle as she did and formed Branches. “Unfortunately domestic violence is in every demographic and crosses all cultural backgrounds,” she says. “Helping other women has really been a calling … For women who find themselves in situations that seem hopeless, there is always help, people who care, and a way out of your circumstances to a brighter future,” adds Hill.