The late 90s into the early 2000s was a period of expansion for both fundraising events and the formation of new services. Seeking to grow its fundraising activities to keep up with the growth of the agency, Laurel House held its first Annual Gala in 1998. It was such a success that a Gala is now held each year, and has become our largest fundraiser.
The agency continued to grow through a merger with Nehemiah’s Way, a transitional housing program. This merger was necessary as the need to help assist families leaving the shelter and trying to get back on their feet became clear. In addition to the extra transitional housing units, the merger also provided office space in North Wales to serve clients. Laurel House was growing to serve more of the geographic region of Montgomery County.
In 2001, the Medical Advocacy Program was created. This program sought to educate medical professionals on how to look for the signs of abuse in their patients and help connect them to resources like Laurel House for help. Today this program works with medical, dental, and OBGYN offices helping to treat trauma injuries specific to abuse.
In 2003, the Women’s Committee of Laurel House held it’s first “Breaking the Silence Luncheon” to raise awareness for the silent suffering of domestic abuse victims. This has become one of our largest events and is held annually with a panelist of special guest speakers discussing different topics relating to domestic abuse.
The Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) was added in 2005. This program was the result of collaborations between local law enforcement and victim service agencies. The DART program educated law enforcement on the signs of abuse and provided an advocate immediately on-scene to victims of domestic abuse that were in need of safety planning, counseling, emergency shelter, and more. Today the DART program has grown to have both full-time staff and volunteers who are available 24/7 to help the victims who need them.
Even with all of their success in expanded programs and services, Laurel House felt they could be doing more to promote awareness for their vision of ending domestic abuse. They soon found the perfect way: a thrift shop! In 2006, Marian’s Attic thrift shop was opened in King of Prussia. The store was named after Marian Kimmel, who was a longtime supporter and played a large role in helping to fund the store. Not only would this allow for an additional revenue stream, but it also offered a safe space for victims to come and learn about the services offered by Laurel House under the guise of shopping. One of the hardships suffered by many of our clients is that all too often, they had to flee their abusive situations quickly, leaving behind basic things like shoes and clothing. The opening of Marian’s Attic allowed clients to shop for these essentials in a safe atmosphere where money wouldn’t be an issue.
Marian’s Attic proved to be such a helpful resource to clients and the public that Laurel House started planning to replicate this model in a different part of the county. In 2012, this goal was achieved with the opening of a second thrift shop, Laurel’s Loft, in Lansdale.
Opening two thrift shops* in the county greatly increased the reach of Laurel House and helped pave the way for further fundraising and awareness expansions. In 2013, the Board of Directors saw the need to revise the Laurel House mission statement to reflect our growing comprehensive services. Since then, we “Advocate for and empower those impacted by domestic violence by providing crisis intervention, safe haven, supportive programs and resources, as well as advance social change through preventative education, community training, and collaboration to foster a coordinated response to domestic abuse.”
*Please note that both Marian’s Attic and Laurel’s Loft thrift shops are currently closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, but plans are underway to safely re-open them as soon as possible.