“You are now entering the mission field.” Sandra Strickland sees this sign before exiting her church building each week. And every time she stops to think about what it means.
Sandra and daughter Theresa Bullock are two extraordinary women who entered the mission field to help the numerous women and children in Gwinnett County who are affected by domestic violence.
Theresa’s daughter was in an abusive relationship in her teenage years. After she received the assistance she needed, Theresa and her husband started looking for a place they could support that helped others like their daughter.
What they found was PADV. Sandra and Theresa were asked to co-chair PADV’s Gwinnett County Safe House Capital Campaign to raise more than $4.4M for a new shelter for abused women. After consulting with their husbands and joining in steadfast prayer, both women agreed to the challenge because they felt that was where God wanted them to be.
Their family gave the lead gift of $500,000 to ensure the new facility is up and running by early 2013.
“Anything that Clyde and I have is not ours. God owns it all,” Sandra said. “What we have we take care of, and once we leave someone else will take care of it.”
The Campaigning Process
Sandra and Theresa’s first task was to create a committee. They approached friends, family and other community connections to put together a dedicated 17-person team.
Then they put their heads together to brainstorm who they would reach out to, including local community organizations, businesses, churches and so on.
It was Sandra’s idea to contact 12Stone Church, which gave $100,000 – the first of many generous donations. 12Stone’s contribution fueled excitement among other churches like Holy Cross Anglican Church and Saint Lawrence Catholic Church, which invited the committee to speak at their services. Even if the committee only spoke for five minutes, their message touched many hearts because generous funds rolled in.
From there, the word continued to spread as the committee spoke at other Christian organizations, women’s groups, rotary clubs, Sunday schools and even the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
“After a while, you just learned to talk about it wherever you went,” Theresa said. “I even started dropping off brochures at retail stores and other places I came across throughout the day.”
The team also conducted a letter-writing campaign to friends and family, which raised nearly $90,000 through checks that ranged from $5 to $5,000.
“It wasn’t about the size of the check but the size of people’s hearts,” Sandra said. “We were thrilled every time we got even a $25 check. That’s a lot of money for some people and a lot of money to us.”
Sandra and Theresa both say that every little bit helped PADV reach the larger goal.
The committee also received $750,000 from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, an anonymous gift of $600,000 and a $1,630,000 contribution from the Gwinnett County Community Development Block Grant to purchase the land and building for the new shelter. In all, the campaign received an estimated 21 large gifts and 152 others.
Coming Full Circle
After months of campaigning and fundraising, the committee is close to reaching their goal. Sandra and Theresa feel like the Gwinnett community is aware of PADV and standing strong behind its mission.
“To me, this has been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve taken on,” Sandra said. “And I don’t like calling it a project because it’s about people and the lives of their children.”
In addition to improving the lives of victims of domestic violence, the Gwinnett Safe House creates jobs for those hired to work on the construction of the building.
“I love things that help people. PADV cares about the lives of our women and children,” Sandra Said. “It’s not how much money we have but what we have done for others.”
Sandra and Theresa both talked about how moved they were by the people they met and the stories they heard along the way.
“You know you’re doing what you are supposed to be doing when you can talk about it to anyone and people can come and talk to you,” Theresa said. “I’ve been in different places where people come up and ask to talk to me. We’ve been able to help people get to where they need to be.”
But the work doesn’t stop here.
“The future is going to be keeping the shelter going,” Theresa said. “Educating people about PADV’s mission is really important. We have to continue letting people know we’re helping and here. We have to make people aware that PADV provides help and hope for them to escape domestic violence.”