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Securus House celebrates 20th anniversary

By Ed Brock

Betsy Ramsey said she cannot believe it's been two decades since the Securus House shelter for victims of spousal abuse that she helped found started its work.

"I just wish them the best in the future," Ramsey said. "Unfortunately I think it will always be needed."

Ramsey was one of about 50 people who came to celebrate Securus House's 20th anniversary celebration and annual meeting of the Association on Battered Women of Clayton County, the agency that operates the shelter, on Monday evening.

While enjoying a piece of anniversary cake in the Southern Regional Medical Center's Education Center where the meeting was held, Ramsey recalled becoming a member of the Securus House board of trustees in 1983. In 1989 she became director of the shelter, though it was not in the same secret location it is today. They built the current building in 1991, and prior to that they renovated the first shelter. Then they renovated the new shelter in 2001.

"I was involved in all the construction projects," Ramsey said.

Ramsey retired as director in 2002 and now runs her own marketing and publishing business, Betsy Ramsey Enterprises, while working part-time for the Spalding County Sheriff's Office's victims services unit.

In 2003 the house assisted 4,006 women and children, 739 men and 293 "unknowns," said Pat Altemus, Securus House interim executive director. Unknowns are people who call the shelter's crisis lines with questions but do not give a name and thus cannot be identified officially as a man or woman, Altemus said.

"Sometimes they just want somebody to talk to," Altemus said.

During the meeting Monday Altemus received a plaque from the shelter's incoming board officers in appreciation of her work as interim director.

"She has given us the energy and drive to move to the next level," said incoming Treasurer Mary Thomaston.

Altemus recalled that when she was first picked to serve as interim director it was "not something I wanted to do."

But she has not regretted a day.

In swearing in Thomaston and the other officers, President Pandora Hunt, Vice President Mel Layne and Secretary Barbara Meek, Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin told them that they have responsibilities. They have the responsibility to preserve the foundation of the association laid out before them and to build on that foundation, Martin said.

"You have the responsibility to learn that (domestic violence) is one of the most frequently reported crimes in Clayton County," Martin said.

Among the many other members of the community honored during the meeting for their support of Securus House were two of the shelter's volunteers, one-year volunteer Sandra Young of Rex and two-year volunteer Martha Matheson of Jonesboro.

Young, a network technician for Clayton County Computer Services, said she was inspired to volunteer by Matheson's enthusiasm. Matheson, a clerk in the county's traffic court, said she got started after talking to the legal advocates who came through the courthouse on business for the shelter.

"I had the time and I wanted to do something to give back to the community," said Matheson, adding that now she is hooked on working at the shelter and talking to the women and children there. "You don't think about yourself, you think about others. You don't even think about your problems."

For information on volunteering at the shelter call (770) 961-7233.