Oxford activists push for women's shelter

OXFORD – When the Domestic Violence Project was forced earlier this year to close for failure to pay taxes and to keep up its registration as a non-profit charity, it left a lot of former donors and volunteers feeling betrayed.
More urgent was that the closing left Oxford without a safe place for victims of domestic abuse to go, forcing some to go as far as Tupelo, Grenada or Memphis for shelter.
“I can’t sleep at night, people, when I worry what has happened, how we’re going to overcome it, how we’re going to win the confidence of the community again,” said Terry Jean Williams-Buffington.
Buffington gathered with a group of community members Monday to seek prospective board members and volunteers to help establish a new domestic violence shelter.
Buffington hopes to have the facility named the Patricia Aschoff Center in memory of her sister, who served for years as the Domestic Violence Project’s director and who died in 2010.
Buffington said representatives of the Secretary of State’s Office mandated starting with a clean slate, from employees to board members.
“We’re not going to hire anybody that worked at the old shelter,” she said.
Several potential board members for the proposed new shelter have already been identified, including people from the legal, public relations and accounting fields.
“Whoever has anything to do with this shelter has to be a person of high character,” Buffington said.
Attorney Cameron Abel agreed.
“One of the big issues with the IRS is that the board members get no benefits from the organization,” he said.
Once a board is assembled, the next priority will be establishing 501(c)3 status with the IRS and charity status with the State.
Buffington, an academic who was herself a domestic violence victim nearly 30 years ago, said she would help get the center going but would eagerly seek a successor.
“I see myself as possibly an interim director, but we’re old now, and we need somebody in their 40s or 50s to take this on,” she said.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

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