December is a month filled with days and moments dedicated to family and friends. The efforts made to be generous and more considerate of others make December a truly joyous time of the year. But the best part of year’s end and holiday spirit is the commitment many make towards being charitable towards strangers. There are so many ways to give and support people in need during the holiday season. Although the topic of violence and abuse does not fit into most people’s holiday vibe, I want to tell you about a wonderful women’s shelter in Chicago called Clara’s House.
Clara’s House is located on Chicago’s south side off 63rd and Ashland Avenue. Founded in 1983 by Mrs. Clara Kirk whose mission was to improve the quality of life for women and children who have been victims of domestic abuse or homeless due to financial hardship. Mrs.Kirk who was able to gain support for her cause from Mayor Harold Washington in the early years, moved her shelter from her home to a free standing stone house in Englewood. Clara’s House has provided a safe and peaceful home for many women experiencing extreme hardship for over 25 years.
As you can imagine, Clara’s House faces a wide range of difficulties providing shelter, food, warmth, bedding, showers, training, support and more, for over 50 women and children (between both shelters Clara’s House and Clara’s Place). In fact a year ago, the electric and gas were shut off at Thanksgiving. It was an anonymous donor and Will Bynum from the Chicago Bulls that paid it off and kept them going through the holiday and winter season.
Although Mrs. Kirk is an amazing 73-year-old woman deserving of her Illinois African American Family Commission lifetime achievement award, I would like to acknowledge Ms Janice Boykin. Over the past 8 years I have had the pleasure of working with Ms. Boykin the Director of Operations and Case Manager for Clara’s House. Since 2006, my business, POW! Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness has led a Secret Santa toy drive for all the children (about 30 kids) in the shelters. Ms. Boykin discreetly collects all the kids’ names, sizes, ages and even wishes and then delivers it on a handwritten piece of paper. From there, the generous students of my school choose a child and serve as their Santa Clause. I bring all the presents on Christmas morning, sit with the moms and their kids in private and deliver the presents. It is Ms. Boykin’s kind spirit and absolute commitment to Mrs. Kirk’s vision that brings me joy and fuels my long-standing loyalty to Clara’s House.
It is for this reason that I am hosting a Women’s Only Self Defense workshop this Saturday to raise money for Clara’s House. In an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault, this 2-hour training will help expose women to various tactical skills for defense. This event will not underplay the fact that about 80% of sexual assaults involve acquaintances. However, we will train specific drills and techniques that can be used to defense if faced with an attacker.