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Sarah's Inn Gets Community Support

Portion of Wednesday's sales at Whole Foods will be donated to Oak Park domestic abuse resource agency.

Domestic violence is never an easy topic to tackle. It's not often discussed, instead left behind closed doors for someone else to worry about.

, an Oak Park nonprofit organization working to prevent and educate about domestic abuse, has refused to leave the topic in the shadows. This year, the group will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

In honor of that anniversary, the River Forest will donate five percent of the Wednesday’s sales to the organization.

The company's Community Support Day happens every quarter at each store and Whole Foods likes to keep donations local.

“We try to identify organizations that are truly making a difference, and Sarah’s Inn is definitely a worthwhile cause,” said Whole Foods spokeswoman Julia Evans. “We really want that organization and the community to take advantage of the day...we never put a cap on the amount they can earn.”

Sarah’s Inn operates with 15 full-time staffers members, plus a few part-timers throughout the year. Together, they serve about 7,000 women, teens and children each year from Oak Park, River Forest and surrounding communities by offering a 24-hour crisis hotline, advocacy and counseling, legal advocacy, emergency transportation and shelter, and childcare.

Sarah's Inn gets most of its funding, about 60 percent, from federal, state and local government programs, though state payments have lagged.

“In the past two years, the state has always been behind,” said Colleen Sutkus, Sarah's Inn associate program director. “Some funds we have applied for and we get the award and then we don’t get the money until six months later.”

The remaining 40 percent of the agency's funding comes from corporate or foundation grants and individual donors.

Luckily, Sutkus said, Sarah’s Inn is stable. They’ve been working over the past few years to “make sure [they] are around for the long haul.”

However, they still can’t grow certain programs, mostly because of a slumping economy.

“We have the ability, the creativity, the need, but we don’t have the money needed to grow,” she said. “We’re stable but stagnant.”

One program they'd like to add to, she said, would the "Step Back" domestic violence prevention program at . Sutkus said the agency would like to supply the program with a female staffer, and to expand the program to other area high schools.

Another program they'd like to expand takes place in a Melrose Park church, where Sutkus said one counselor sees of upward of 20 women during a once-weekly session. With more funding, organizers could spread those sessions out to two or three times per week.

Despite the name, Sarah’s Inn is not a shelter. They have agreements with shelters, but when those are full, they help with emergency hotel placements.

“Every bit helps, no matter what,” she said. “It’s the awareness...Whole Foods partnering with us on this is saying they care about their community and want other people to care about it as well. Every last dollar is very important in these times.”

To that end, volunteers and staff from the agency will be at Whole Foods from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to talk with customers about the organization.

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