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'Doorways' Honors Community Volunteers

Benefit auction helps abused, homeless, and at-risk women and families

"When I came to Arlington in 1995, I just needed a place to hide," said Jeanne Mahoney, a domestic violence survivor, while speaking at the 16th Annual Benefit Auction for Doorways for Women and Families. "Without Doorways," she added, "I wouldn't be here today."

Some 270 people attended the event on Sunday, March 12 at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City.

DOORWAYS, formerly known as The Arlington Community Temporary Shelter (TACTS), was founded in 1978 and serves abused, homeless and at-risk women and families. The organization provides shelter, support groups, financial literacy and life skills' education. Sunday's Benefit Auction was not only a fund-raiser but a chance for Doorways to honor its volunteers and community partners. The theme of this year's benefit was "Building Hope, Rebuilding Lives."

ABC 7 (WJLA-TV) news anchor Maureen Bunyan was the event's Mistress of Ceremonies. Also in attendance were Del. Al Eisenberg (D-47), and County Board members Barbara Favola, Walter Tejada and Paul Ferguson (Vice Chair).

"Homelessness and domestic violence are equal-opportunity problems," Bunyan said during her opening remarks. "Here in Arlington County it is frightening to think that in the middle of this incredible economic upturn and luxury, we are still in a community in which one in four women will be the victim of domestic violence in their lifetime."

According to Kelly Ferris, development director of Doorways, the event was "the most successful auction we've ever had."

THE EVENT included both a silent and live auction of donated items. Donors of some of the 100 items auctioned included Olsson's Books and Records, the Warner Theatre, Luray Caverns, the United Colors of Benetton, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Newman's Own, and the Marrakesh Restaurant. The live auction, which was directed by Lee Laws of Laws Auctions, included several large handmade rugs, an autographed and authenticated photo of Michael Jordan, and a weekend at The Greenbrier Golf Resort and Spa.

Doorways honored volunteers and partners in the community with the Unsung Hero Award. Local volunteer Molly Harkin was honored with this award, as was Doorways' community partner Clarendon United Methodist Church. The corporate partner honored this year was NV Homes, which is rebuilding Doorways' Emergency Family Shelter at less than two-thirds of the cost. HomeAid Northern Virginia, the charity division of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA), facilitated the partnership of NV Homes and Doorways. The existing shelter, which currently houses 16 people, will be razed and rebuilt so that the building will extend to the back of the property line. The new shelter will house 21 people.

TOM PTAK is the director of production of NV Homes. "This is not all about the award, it's really about giving back to the community," he said after receiving the Unsung Hero Award. "We're so excited about being able to do this program, and we know it's going to be a success." Maggie Johnston of NVBIA says that the rebuilding of the shelter will be "HomeAid Northern Virginia's largest project to date." The charity is in its fifth year.

According to Linda Dunphy, who has been executive director of Doorways for the last four years, the event began 16 years ago as a fashion show with a Valentine's Day theme. "It's taken many different shapes and forms over the years," she says, adding that the event has evolved to focus on "honoring clients and volunteers."

Jeanne Mahoney, a former client, says she and her six children have lived violence-free for 11 years. Before she joined the Doorways' support group, she says she had "never heard of domestic violence or abuse or battered women." She spends much of her time now advocating for a privacy bill to be passed in Virginia that would protect victims of domestic violence from their abusive spouses. Jeanne has experienced this problem firsthand. Last November, her ex-husband "found out where I worked, and then the harassment started," she says. "I had to get a restraining order."

ANNABEL MAKUIZA, also a former client, shared her story at the benefit. She emigrated from Angola to the U.S. in 1990, and married soon after. She said her husband "wanted to control my life. I took it for 15 years. I left even though I had no place to go." After finding the phone number for Doorways at the library, she says, calling "saved her life." She attended support groups and received financial guidance and assistance. Her two children were allowed to attend summer camps. Annabel used to take Nyquil in order to sleep for "fear of [my husband] strangling me in my sleep."

Now she sleeps peacefully, thanks to Doorways.