Sheltering Wings Celebrates 20 Years of Community Assistance
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
One evening in 1999, Sue Hoffeditz was working at a local food pantry when a mother and her two children came in to shop.
“I was initially so enamored with the little ones that I didn’t pay much attention to the mom, but when I did look up at her, I could tell someone had beaten her,” says Hoffeditz, whose initial instinct was to contact the local shelter. Then she learned that there was no local shelter and she was crestfallen. As she continued to ask around about what could be done, it became clear in her heart and soul that she was the one to make something happen.
“One thing leads you to another until God thumps you on the head, and you’re like, ‘I get it now. This is something you want me to get started on,’” Hoffeditz says.
That was the birth of Sheltering Wings, formed in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, to provide emergency housing for survivors escaping domestic abuse. They build stable and independent lives through programs offered in a caring and Christ-centered environment. Bob Leonard, Raylene Bayless, Dave Blanford and others joined Hoffeditz as founding board members.
“I can’t imagine society where a woman is living in an abusive situation and doesn’t know what her options are, and she doesn’t have any,” Leonard says.
Bayless knew someone who needed a place to go but didn’t have one, and that was the impetus for her involvement in Sheltering Wings.
Blanford didn’t have much experience in domestic violence, but he was close to a couple of female victims, and that pulled at his heartstrings.
“It doesn’t take much involvement [at Sheltering Wings] for a person to become a fan and realize, ‘This is something I can really get behind,’” he says.
Linda Wells, emergency services manager, is grateful for such people, as it made a dream become a reality.
“We wouldn’t be here today without that group of people having a heart for something they didn’t even know was going to become this big,” says Wells, noting that initially they all envisioned building or buying a small house for women in need of refuge, but it grew to be so much more. “God had a much bigger plan and he put the right people in place for that plan.”
The organization started as an extension of Cornerstone Christian Church as an independent nonprofit, and has garnered a huge amount of support from the entire community including various agencies, individuals and other churches. Though they have stayed true to their core principles and guiding values, the organization and its mission has continued to expand and grow over time. For instance, in February of 2020 Sheltering Wings opened a 12-person unit for male victims of domestic abuse.
The nonprofit helps roughly 250 women, men and children annually through their residential services. In addition, they provide prevention and education all across the county in churches, schools and workplaces, so they touch a lot of people in various ways. Plus, they have a helpline that operates 24/7, fielding thousands of calls each year that serve a whole spectrum of needs. Sheltering Wings, in numerous ways, helps those who suffer domestic abuse get back on their feet.
Cassie Mecklenburg, Sheltering Wings’ executive director, is grateful to not only the founding board members, but also all of the friends and supporters of Sheltering Wings who have educated themselves and others, and/or volunteered their time and talents through the years. In October, the Sheltering Wings team members will celebrate their 20th anniversary.
“That’s 20 years of safety, 20 years of breaking the cycle of abuse, 20 years of life-skills classes, and 20 years of showing Christ’s love to survivors of domestic violence,” Mecklenburg says. “It’s also 20 years of families who have found safety, love and encouragement from our services.”
Because of this nonprofit, survivors get a whole new lease on life. One resident shares that she was stuck in a cycle of abuse, going from one abusive boyfriend to the next since she was 17 years old. She then got married and had two kids with an abusive husband.
“[Sheltering Wings] offered me a bright new future that I didn’t think existed,” she says. “This place has really helped me with independence and learning to believe in myself.”
Thanks to continual advocacy and support, more than 4,500 men, women and children have left domestic abuse behind for safe, bright futures. As Mecklenburg reflects on all of the names and faces of individuals who have entered their doors through the years, she smiles at the outcomes.
“I celebrate with them the jobs that they have secured, degrees completed, first-time homeowners, and most importantly the newfound safety and freedom they are experiencing,” she says. “I’m beyond thankful for [the community’s] support over the past 20 years. God has been so faithful. His hand can be seen in everything here at the shelter.”
For anyone interested in helping, Sheltering Wings gladly accepts donations and volunteers.
“Our work is only possible through the support of the community,” says Jenna Harris, communication and annual giving officer with Sheltering Wings. “Monetary donations provide for our clients in an extremely meaningful way, and there’s always a need for donated items and volunteers.”
Marilyn Bradford started volunteering at Sheltering Wings in early 2019.
“Abuse is so much more prevalent than what people think, and I want to be a part of the solution,” Bradford says. “It’s such a rewarding experience and I know I’m making a difference. I encourage everyone to volunteer at least once.”
Sheltering Wings also offers workshops, trainings and policy help, to educate and equip workplaces, churches, schools and individuals.
“A great way to get involved is to bring us in to do a workshop, or to come to the shelter for a workshop on-site,” Harris says. “Community support makes it possible for survivors to find safety.”
If your church or workplace would like to receive resource cards, trainings, or help creating a domestic abuse policy, all free of charge, contact Harris. Mailing address: Sheltering Wings, P.O. Box 92, Danville, IN 46122. To call the 24-hour helpline, call 317-745-1496. For more information, call 317-718-5460 or visit shelteringwings.org.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Sheltering Wings will host a variety of events throughout October. Visit shelteringwings.org to learn more.
- October 3: Understanding Domestic Violence. 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sheltering Wings. In this training, participants learn about the causes for domestic violence and how to be a part of the solution.
- October 6: Sixth Annual Men IN Action Breakfast at D-BAT Avon. 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Designed to equip men on the journey to build one another up, hold one another accountable, challenge the status quo and navigate life by being positive role models for youth.
- October 6: Dine Out Against Domestic Violence. When you dine at any Cunningham Restaurant Group restaurant in Hendricks County, a portion of your bill will be donated back to Sheltering Wings. The Cunningham Restaurant Group locations in Hendricks County include Boulder Creek Dining Company, Charbonos, BRU Burger Bar Brownsburg, BRU Burger Bar Plainfield, and Stone Creek Dining Company Plainfield.
- October 20: Celebrate, Create, Connect. 6 p.m. at Sheltering Wings. Celebrate survivors of domestic abuse, create a unique piece of artwork, and connect to continue to prevent abuse. Wear purple to show your support for National Domestic Violence Awareness Day (the color of the domestic violence ribbon).