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Dawn Center finds innovative ways to give survivors a voice

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As more and more people are discovering these days, the exquisite outlets of creativity and artistic expression can be therapeutic in tough times. Both the administrators and the clients of the Dawn Center of Hernando County domestic and sexual violence center have known this for years–and now more than ever, they are finding original and innovative ways of Giving Survivors a Voice.

The Dawn Center has received a $200 Community Arts Grant from the Hernando County Fine Arts Council (https://www.hernandoarts.org/community-arts-grants). The mission of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council is to “encourage, promote, and support all the creative arts in Hernando.” Since the inception of the Community Arts Grant program in 2017, the Arts Council has as of 2019 invested $10,000 in 27 projects that had served more than 38,000 people; projects undertaken by Hernando groups and nonprofit agencies to promote art and arts appreciation. And in awarding a 2020 grant to the Dawn Center, the council is supporting the center’s Giving Survivors a Voice program; an art therapy project in which shelter residents and center clients are encouraged to express their feelings through the creation of artistic works.   

“Domestic Violence will affect 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men in their lifetime,” reads the center’s arts grant application information. “Oftentimes their voices are silenced. This project will give survivors back their voices by painting their stories on T-shirts, glassware, and denim and displaying them in the community.”

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Seen in exhibits that generally include the Clothesline Project Display, usually on display in April at the courthouse in Brooksville as a part of National Crime Victim Rights Week, the results of their handiwork come emblazoned with empowering phrases like “I am a survivor,” “You are not alone,” “Break Free,” and “Love, Believe, and Hope,” along with soothing symbols like hearts, butterflies and purple ribbons.

“This project was created with the aim of giving survivors a voice,” said Jessica Coughlin, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Dawn Center. “We wanted to do something to empower them, to help them on their journey.”

Coughlin says that the grant money awarded is helping to purchase art supplies for this project, which she said has proven highly therapeutic for Dawn Center residents and clients.

“We were so happy and excited to receive this grant for our clients. Art therapy makes them feel better,” said Coughlin. “It helps their lives.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dawn Center has had to postpone many of the public exhibits that showcase this art–along with annual fund-raising events that, through the presentation of dramatic and athletic skill, garner needed funds for the center’s operations.

Yet here again, center administrators have found that a little creativity goes a long way.

In recognition of April’s Sexual Violence Awareness Month, the Dawn Center’s Annual 5k was originally scheduled for April 25. And the event will proceed–just in a markedly different form than originally planned.  

“Just because we have to stay home doesn’t mean we can’t be active,” is the slogan for The Dash for Dawn Centre Virtual 5K, scheduled for Friday, April 24, through Friday, May 1. The cost of participation in the Virtual 5K is $30.

“Be Strong. Be Brave, Be Your Own Superhero!” encourages an event notice. “This virtual event will have many features of our signature annual event.  We will launch with an awareness video.  Participants are encouraged to dress up as their own superhero (optional) and run a 5k on their own treadmills or in their own neighborhoods while adhering to social distancing practices.”  

Aside from running, participants also have the option of walking, hiking or even crawling the race’s distance; and of submitting videos or photos of the experience that the center will post across their social media. All participants will receive an event T-shirt, goodie bag and finishing medal as part of their $30 registration cost. Those interested in registering can visit https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/SpringHill/DashforDawnCenter. 

“This is the first time we have ever planned a virtual 5k, so it’s definitely been a learning experience,” said Coughlin. “But I will tell you that it has been something positive for us to work on and for the community to look forward to. Especially during such an uncertain time where many are likely feeling a variety of emotions. We thought this was a way to still have our fundraiser and give people a safe option to not only exercise (from anywhere), but also have some feeling of a ‘gathering’ without actually gathering in person.”

 “We have such an amazing community,” said Coughlin, “and we are so happy that many were willing to sponsor this event!”


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