ST. GEORGE – The story of the Erin Kimball Foundation and those who walk through its doors is nothing if not a story of courage, strength and empowerment. It is the story of those women and children who have risen and continue to rise above the cycle of abuse and the story of the people who help them on their journey.
The foundation had its beginnings in the aftermath of tragedy. Erin Kimball, the foundation’s namesake, married young and by the time she was 21 years old had two children. In 1983, when her marriage turned destructive, the foundation’s Web page states, she lacked the education, resources and skills to support herself and her two children, ages 3 and 5 months.
Erin Kimball’s story continues with her youngest becoming critically ill and when she had no transportation to get him to the emergency room, she called her husband to pick them up; but they never made it to the hospital. The four of them were later found dead near the Salt Lake City Airport in a triple homicide, suicide, according to the same Web page.
“How do you move on from something like that?” Foundation founder and Executive Director Sue Kimball, wife of Erin Kimball’s father, said. “You just breathe in and breathe out and try to do some good.”
One of the first things you notice as you enter the Erin Kimball Foundation’s facility is the doors. Intricately carved and stained by designer and wood sculptor Daniel Pettegrew, the doors represent the pathway to hope that the foundation hopes to instill in those who participate in its program.
In a message from Erin Kimball’s father on the website he said:
While a door shut for Erin, I am committed to opening doors for you and your families: Opening doors to safe haven; opening doors to education; opening doors to financial independence; opening doors to healthy relationships and opening doors to violence-free futures for this generation and those yet to come.
The mission of the foundation is to serve the homeless survivors of domestic violence and abuse and to provide the resources necessary to help participants recover their voices and their power in directing their own lives, Sue Kimball said.
The primary business of the Erin Kimball Foundation, according to its website, is its transitional housing program, H.O.M.E., which stands for housing, options, mentoring and empowering.
Almost all of the participants in the program who are fleeing from situations of abuse are homeless or at risk of being homeless and thus the foundation’s highest priority is housing. The foundation believes that a safe and comfortable home is the key to beginning the healing process and becoming self-sufficient.
Find out more about how the H.O.M.E. program works here.
In addition to housing the program also offers valuable resources and life-skills such as:
- Parenting classes
- Relationship classes
- Financial management
- Life-skills training
- Support club for kids
- Mentoring programs for single moms
- Homeownership preparation
- Monitoring of progress and celebration of success
For participants of the program these resources have been invaluable tools as they seek to reclaim their lives.
“I have taken every lesson to heart, from financial planning to taxes to getting the best deals on clothing for my kids,” program participant Megan Baxter said. “Their resources are incredible for women like me because I had nothing.”
Baxter had been in a cycle of abuse for 17 years; everything from physical and emotional and even financial abuse, she said, adding that she had left several times but it, her leaving, never stuck until she was able to get help from the Erin Kimball Foundation.
Not only did the resources help her in becoming self-sufficient, the support she got from the foundation as well as from other women in the program was incredible, she said.
“Coming from nothing and having what I have now, and knowing I did it, is so empowering,” Baxter said. “Everything about them (the foundation) is just amazing.”
Baxter was quick to praise Sue Kimball, calling her a little ball of sunshine and thanking her for the role she played in helping Baxter become a better person.
“She makes me want to be a better me,” Baxter said.
A common theme for women and families who are in a situation of domestic violence is a loss of self and hope.
Leslie Vasquez-Hunt recounted her story as a survivor of abuse and violence, describing it as akin to being in prison. Vasquez-Hunt said she lacked the confidence and strength to admit she needed help and, at her lowest points, did not even know she didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
She has come a long way since she completed the program nine years ago, Vasquez-Hunt said. She is now a teacher and, she said, happily remarried to a nice guy.
Vasquez-Hunt echoed Baxter’s sentiments about the foundation’s role in her life and the strength she received from the other women in the support groups who made her feel as if she was not alone, she said, and that it was OK to talk about her situation.
Since its inception, the Erin Kimball Foundation has provided over 210,000 safe nights to over 165 survivors and 345 children, according to its Web page.
“Domestic violence is not class-, socioeconomic-, race- or religion-based,” Sue Kimball said. “It affects people from all walks of life.”
Learn more about the Erin Kimball Foundation including ways you can help here
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