When women and children show up at Clackamas County Women's Shelter, they often have nothing but the clothes on their backs. And bruises on their bodies.
But over the next two weeks, shoppers at Lamb's Palisades Thriftway in Lake Oswego can help remedy their desperate situation by making donations to a food drive - and more, if they desire.
Starting Saturday, from March 17 to 31, Palisades will be matching customer donations with every $10 purchase. It will be money well spent.
'We're hoping to feed women and children and raise awareness of this problem,' said event organizer Amanda Riggs. 'This is so big. This is food that we really need, like flour and sugar.'
Palisades grocery manager Eldon Otta did not need a lot of convincing from the vivacious Riggs that this was a project his store could support.
'Palisades is very committed to being part of the community, and Amanda made it very easy because she has so much enthusiasm,' Otta said. 'Obviously, this is a worthwhile cause.'
When it comes to abuse, and even danger, battered women and children are on the wrong end of a numbers game that the Clackamas shelter is trying to turn around. The shelter has 44 beds, now totally occupied. But that isn't nearly enough to help all of the women fleeing from abusive husbands and partners and seeking to begin a new life.
'Women come here when they've exhausted all other means of shelter and have nowhere else to go,' Riggs said. 'Sometimes the lives of these women and children are in danger.
'Often a woman has to go back to her abuser, who beats her down to nothing. We want them to know that help is here.'
'Women who come to the shelter range from very poor to moderately wealthy,' said Mazarine Treyz, development associate for Clackamas Women's Services. 'But they can't bring their wealth with them because their abusers can track them. Some have all kinds of bruises when they arrive.'
The shelter is simply too small to assist every woman who needs help. Sadly, the shelter was forced to turn down 1,400 women and children who applied for temporary housing last year.
However, the shelter was able to accept nearly 400 women and children, and was able to provide crisis response to about 4,000 people.
The food drive at Palisades will fill up the shelter's kitchen shelves, which tend to become depleted this time of year after the outpouring of giving during the Christmas season.
But even more important than acquiring enough food is the raising of awareness of the plight of battered women and children.
'We want to raise awareness for women in trouble,' Treyz said. 'We don't want things to reach a point where a guy is putting a gun to her head. Events like this help us raise our profile in the community and let people know we are here to help.'
Riggs knows how important awareness is. She was in an abusive situation herself several years ago. In fact, it became so bad that, accompanied by her son, she drove 2,500 miles to Oregon.
'I felt so isolated. I felt so alone,' Riggs said. 'I had no friends or family to help me.'
She has painful memories of standing in line with her son to get food. Riggs was able to get on her feet and start a new life, but says, 'It would have been so much easier if I would have had help.'
For that reason, Riggs became an immediate and enthusiastic volunteer for the women's shelter when she found out about it a year ago.
'I don't have money, but I do have time,' Riggs said. 'I want other women to know that help is here.'
Riggs has another goal, too.
'I want the shelter to become financially stable,' she said.
Saturday's event will begin at 10 a.m. Community members will be assisting, and staff members of Clackamas Women's Services will answer questions about services available and ways that the public can provide support. Members of the Lake Oswego Police Department will talk about awareness of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Lamb's Palisades Thriftway is located at 1377 SW McVey Ave.
For more information about Clackamas Women's Services, call 503-722-2366 or go to the Web site at www.cwsor.org. The Crisis Line number is 503-654-2288. Financial donations and volunteers are greatly appreciated.