Gabinet: Shepherd's Inn 'integral part' of the community

By Greg Miller

The Shepherd's Inn is an "integral part" of the community, according to Paul Gabinet, the organization's executive director.
   "Even though we're quiet, you don't hear about the shelter; you don't hear about the work. The statistics are here; the volunteers are here. The program operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
   Gabinet recently spoke to the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club about the need for The Shepherd's Inn in Carter County. He said that, according to information gleaned by local law enforcement authorities, as well as other sources, "one of every four women in Carter County are victims of some type of domestic violence. That's a staggering figure when you look at that."
   Gabinet cited other statistics:
   * Three to four million women are battered each year.
   * In the United States, a woman is beaten every 13 seconds.
   * Four thousand women and children are beaten to death every year.
   "About 57 percent of the women who are physically abused by their partners will never say a word about this," Gabinet said.
   Diana Puckett, a Shepherd's Inn intern from East Tennessee State University's Social Work Department, addressed the Kiwanians. She said she has been involved in operational and financial accountability aspects of The Shepherd's Inn. "I got to help do a little bit of grant writing, have been involved with the development committee, and learning about some of the fundraising projects that they are going to have coming up soon," Puckett remarked.
   "Most importantly, I've been able to work with the women and the children who have been victims of homelessness and abuse in this community during my experience with this very necessary and worthwhile project in Carter County."
   Brandon Campbell and Megan Mast, interns from ETSU's Advertising Department also spoke to the Kiwanians. "We really wanted to make a difference in our community with the skills that we've gotten through going to school," Campbell said. "Our main goal in doing this is just to get the name out there to the people that will need our services."
   "What we want to do is to raise awareness, not only for the victims, but also to raise donations for the shelter. We're doing that through TV, radio, brochures and billboards," Mast said.
   A new billboard message - with the words "Never again wasn't a lie" - superimposed on a tombstone, was unveiled during the Kiwanis Club meeting. "This is totally original," Gabinet said. "We're submitting this to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I would not be surprised if they adopted something like this."
   Gabinet said the Shepherd's Inn program "is very unique, and it's going to take an awful lot of community support, moreso now than we've had in the past."
   Due to the sluggish economy, funds from government grants and private foundations are not as easy to obtain, according to Gabinet. For this reason, additional monies are needed from the community, he said.
   "I think our first obligation is to the clientele of the community. Our second obligation is to make sure we have the money to take care of it. It takes $4,000 a month to operate the shelter."
   Paying the shelter's mortgage, staff (on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week basis), and utilities are among expenses the organization shoulders. Income derived from apartments on the property helps to offset the cost of the mortgage.
   Insurance is another operational cost. "Insurance is extremely high," Gabinet said.
   Since its opening, Shepherd's Inn has served about 600 clients, according to Gabinet. About 16,000 meals have been served. According to statistics compiled by ETSU students, slightly more than half of the organization's clients are Carter County residents, Gabinet said. Nearly half of the clients are Elizabethton residents. Half of the clients are children under age 18.
   Food provided by local churches and other community organizations is making a huge difference in the lives of those served by Shepherd's Inn, according to Gabinet. "This community absolutely will not let people go hungry," he said.
   Gabinet coordinates the First Presbyterian Church youth group, which conducts "After Church Cafe" fundraisers. Proceeds from the events are divided between the church's youth group, ARM and Shepherd's Inn.
   Gabinet encourages youth groups from other churches to conduct similar events to benefit Shepherd's Inn or other nonprofit organizations. "It doesn't have to be us," he said. "Put it into any nonprofit organization. A lot of them are still having a hard time."
   Gabinet says he appreciates the fact that the city of Elizabethton has not dropped their support of Shepherd's Inn. "We know we're going to get funds from the city, because we've gotten the word that the city has approved giving us $12,000 for next year. I wish the county would see the example of the city and follow suite, because more people come from the county than they do from the city right now."
   For more information, write Shepherd's Inn, P.O. Box 2214, Elizabethton, TN 37644, or call 542-0180.