Peace Chicks: Ending violence one chick at a time

Story by Cindi Nobles

Women, men and children throughout the universe have been victims to domestic abuse throughout centuries. Each and every person has a connection to someone who is a victim or a survivor. You may have a mom, an aunt, bumped into someone, you may not even know their name – you may never realize or know their story, but everyone knows someone who has been a victim to domestic abuse.

The River Valley Shelter for Battered Women and Children (RVBWC) in Russellville is a non-profit organization that provides a safe place for victims seeking help and have launched a hand-made jewelry line to help provide services for those in need. It’s called Peace Chicks.

“Statistics say one in three women have been a victim of domestic abuse. You know a victim.” RVBWC executive director Jannie Condley said. “We are a non- profit agency which means we are grant funded and depend on local community donations along with our thrift store sales. We wanted something that set us apart from other non-profits and that is how we came to the Peace Chicks jewelry.”

All non-profits must have a sustainability plan Condley said, “Because shutting the doors is not an option at the shelter. We have too many people who depend on our services for their safety.”

In 2007 the shelter opened a thrift store at 121 E. Parkway to help sustain its finances. Shelter advocate and innovator of Peace Chicks, Mandi Geels, saw an opportunity for a creative outlet through jewelry making to raise funds.

The jewelry making evolved through the years. It began with broken china pieces, then to beaded hemp bracelets and now to handcrafted metal branded jewelry.

“I wanted something young and fresh,” Geels said. “When we were making the hemp bracelets I instantly came up with Peace Chicks as our brand name since we were all chicks and the hemp reminded me of the ‘60s and the peaceful hippies. The chicken on the logo is just a fun and lighthearted hippie chick my mom designed. It’s just what we are all about; empowerment, peace and harmony in the home.”

The Peace Chicks will set up stands at local festivals, fairs and events. Geels said the logo attracts attention from kids who are curious as to what they stand for.

“We use it as an education tool when we are set up somewhere,” she said. “We just tell them we try to end violence one chick at a time. It seems every other non-profit in the area were doing similar fundraising events when we began and we needed something that would set us apart. We feel like with our jewelry we can reach a larger audience while promoting domestic peace.”

Peace Chicks offers discreet help with every jewelry purchase. Inside each gift bag is a thank you card with the shelter hotline number attached.

“Each piece of jewelry opens a new door of opportunity to reach people who might otherwise have not been reached,” RVBWC board member and domestic violence survivor Talisa Piker said. “They can keep the card themself, pass it along to someone they think may need it, have it in case of emergency. They will have our number and a way to get in touch with help if it is needed.”

Piker said each piece of metal stamped jewelry is personalized and has sentimental value. “The jewelry can be for children, moms, older women, pets all different varieties of needs are fulfilled. Even what it stands for when you wear it,” Piker said. “Everybody knows, has been touched by someone, has a family member, brushed up against a survivor say in a store somewhere or is a survivor themselves. When you wear one of these pieces or purchase it for someone else it gives you a sense of pride in what you are supporting.”

Geels said the jewelry making has opened many doors for educating the public about domestic abuse. “I would like to stress that abuse is not always physical,” Geels said. “Bruises aren’t always indictors. It could be mental abuse. There are different forms of abuse. A lot of people want to run from that word, but it is what it is. We deal with extremely stressful situations here at the shelter. With Peace Chicks we are now able to lighten up someone’s life. What we deal with on a day-to-day basis is really heavy. This is a nice outlet, something cute and happy that everyone can benefit from.”

Word of mouth and Facebook has brought success to the Peace Chicks in recent months. “We’ve only been doing the metal branded jewelry for a little more than a month and the orders have been coming in every day,” Geels said. “People like that it is personalized and they can order something that says what they want it to say. It’s their own custom made jewelry.”

All proceeds from sales go directly back into the shelter and provides for whatever the grant funding does not cover. Condley said the money is used for many services for the victims. For example they may be picked directly up from a hospital or doctor’s office after being attacked and have a prescription for antibiotics that needs to be filled at a pharmacy somewhere and the client has not money. Many need new birth certificates and a driver’s license because they don’t have the opportunity to gather personal belongings before they leave.

Most of the money brought into the shelter is used to buy food, diapers for the babies or clothes for victims. Last year, the River Valley Shelter provided housing for more than 200 victims and their families.

“We take in clients from all over the place, not just our surrounding area,” Condley said. “Some just leave with the clothes on their back. They may have children with them, some alone, but it is common for everyone to be without many things they need. Our services provide people a place to stay and allows the victims a chance to get back on their feet. Without our thrift store and our jewelry we couldn’t provide. So we are hoping Peace Chicks really takes off so we can do even more for our victims.”

Condley said there are many barriers victims face when they are arrive at the shelter.

“Many of our victims come in with children, and in order to get back on their feet they need a job and in order to work they need childcare and in order to get back and forth to work they need transportation,” she said. “It’s always a challenge to find a way for someone to get to work and to be able to find and provide that childcare long enough for someone to get on their feet. We would love to be able to afford to pay for childcare for these victims longer, say a full month so they can start saving their money. If the jewelry took off I could see so many possibilities. Not all of our victims qualify for government assistance. We have all walks of socio-economic backgrounds that come through our door. Some who did have money don’t have access to any money because their accounts are frozen or have been cleaned out since they left.”

Victims are also provided with counseling services outside of the shelter and have recently been offered the opportunity to provide a six week financial management course to domestic violence survivors. Piker said the financial management course along with counseling is much needed for survivors who have not previously had the opportunity to control their own finances.

“That is something else the jewelry sales could go toward,” Condley said. “To help facilitate the financial management course. Like for us to be able to provide childcare while survivors are taking the course or to be able to provide snacks. The possibilities are endless.”

The Peace Chicks said their ultimate goal is to provide a piece of jewelry that is precious to its owner – something they feel proud and comfortable wearing. Each piece of jewelry has a peace sign signature that sets it apart from others.

“We would love for our jewelry to take off, and when someone sees a piece they recognize it is one of ours,” Geels said. “We want to promote peace in the home everywhere. It would be so cool if it was so recognizable that everyone knew it came from us. We want everybody to be an advocate,” Geels said.

All of the Peace Chicks agree the jewelry is a great personalized gift. With the holidays quickly approaching they hope their affordable pricing will encourage gift buyers to personalize a piece for their loved ones.

The Peace Chicks hemp pieces can be found at Lavish on S. Arkansas, the shelter thrift shop at 121 E. Parkway and the River Valley Arts Center in Russellville. The metal branded pieces can be purchased and personalized online or can be ordered at the thrift shop.

For more information on the Peace Chicks, like their Facebook page or visit their new website at www.peacechicks.org.

 

Share

Category: Features

Comments are closed.