The Sigma and Zeta Nu chapters of Psi Iota Xi joined forces recently, culminating in the donation of a digital camera to New Directions in Greensburg.

“We couldn’t have done it all on our own,” said Jenn Baltus of the Zeta Nu chapter of Westport.

Her chapter of 16 took up donations to make the camera possible, while their much larger counterpart in Greensburg, the Sigma chapter, took funds from their budget.

Each group has fundraisers and projects of their own, but they decided to join forces on this project in order to give a larger donation and also foster cooperation between the chapters.

Susan Burkhart of the Sigma chapter said it was something her sisters were glad to do. This was the first time the women knew of that the two chapters had worked together, but it is something they intend to continue in the future. The Sigma chapter is 90 years old while the Zeta Nu chapter is approaching its 50th birthday. With deep roots in the community, both groups work to make an impact and help those in need.

Zeta Nu makes fundraisers of selling deserts at the Letts Fish Fry booth at the Decatur County Fair and deserts in February. They also produce a community calendar, which makes up the bulk of their operating funds. With this, they offer a scholarship at South Decatur.

The members choose items from the list of needs each year to donate to the shelter. One year, it was personal hygiene packages. Another, it was copy paper and envelopes.

“The money is great, but it feels more like helping when it’s something you can touch,” Baltus said.

The Sigma chapter gives out $8,000 in scholarships to Greensburg students each year. They sell glass cheese trays, flowers, and cheese balls to make up their funds. With clients being served from every township in the county, New Directions executive director Jan Bartels noted, the shelter has the potential to make an impact for clients county-wide.

“It’s about the community,” Burkhart said. “We’re glad to help.”

As the shelter approaches its eighth year, calls for advice and planning have increased, Bartels said. While there are always limitations for funding of a small shelter, she feels awareness is increasing, which could be the first step toward changing the lives of women in abusive relationships.

The digital camera, Bartels noted, will be used to document injuries in order to file for protective orders for the shelter’s clients. Although it can be difficult to prosecute cases of domestic battery, the shelter is working to implement a batterers’ intervention program, which organizers hope would be tied to the judgment on criminal cases.

Choosing to leave the situation and enter the shelter is difficult for clients, Bartels said because it means admitting there is a problem. While it is never the woman’s fault when her life, and that of her children, is negatively impacted by domestic violence, too often, the victims feel responsible.

Meanwhile, their children are learning that being a man means abusing women and being a woman means being abused. It’s a tragic cycle that will often continue for many generations.

Too often, Bartels noted, people take it as a way of life or a family matter, leaving women alone with their plight. The shelter offers advocates to help women reach the life they choose, whether it is out on their own or back in the relationship.

Regardless of the outcome of court cases, New Directions serves as a safe haven for women and children for up to 45 days, while the woman finds new arrangements, whatever they may be. For those who do not have cell phones, Verizon donates phones to help keep them safe outside the doors of the shelter.

“We can’t really protect them out there,” Bartels noted, “But they can’t stay in here if they are trying to get a job and a place to live.”

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