Four women with paint rollers in hand navigate around a couch and bookshelves in the sun room of The Shelter. They paint the walls a goldenrod-yellow and chat about old times. The women, members of the Columbia-based graduate chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, are putting in action their plan to redecorate this room and make it a better place for The Shelter’s residents.
The Shelter aims to provide a temporary safe space for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, said out-
reach advocate Cherice Fleming Togun.
Women and children live in the facility, which can hold 25 people comfortably and a maximum of 32. Men are offered other places to stay, such as hotels.
In 2005, The Shelter provided 147 women, 151 children and one man with a place to stay and many more with counseling services, case management, financial assistance and court-related assistance. The Shelter’s location is kept private for safety reasons.
“I like what they stand for and what they do for the community,” said Gloria Jarvis, the Zeta Phi Beta community development coordinator.
Jarvis is a graduate student at William Woods University, but many of Zeta Phi Beta’s members are not students. For its members, Zeta Phi Beta, a historically African-American sorority, is a lifelong commitment, Jarvis said. The Columbia graduate chapter has about 16 members, while the MU undergraduate sorority, which doesn’t have a house, has about eight members.
The first Shelter opened in January 1983. The current Shelter was built in 1993 to accommodate more women and children. Much of the building has not been updated since then, Fleming Togun said.
When Jarvis contacted her, Fleming Togun suggested the group redecorate the sun room, which used to be the smoking room.
“That was the one that desperately needed the most help,” Fleming Togun said. Its walls were muddied with nicotine stains, and Fleming Togun said the couch was “just ugly.” The sorority surprised The Shelter by bringing in new furniture from Inside Outlet.
“We wanted something that was warm and inviting,” said LeAnn Stroupe, Zeta Phi Beta president. Stroupe said the group plans to continue working on the room, including updating magazines and adding new baseboards. Fleming Togun said the group plans to do other “little things like that make it that much more hospitable,” Fleming Togun said.
With such projects the residents see that “someone does care what I’m living in,” she said.