By Joel Hall
The 1994 Ford Aerostar used by Securus House -- the Southern Crescent's shelter for battered women and their children -- had seen much better days, according to Board of Trustees President Jane Hayes.
"It's been used," said Hayes with a deep sigh. Until today, the aging van was the shelter's only source of transporting women to transitional housing, job interviews, and for getting the children to school.
"It's past time for a new one," said Hayes. On Christmas Eve, however, the shelter's wish of getting a new van was granted by Terry Cullen Chevrolet in Jonesboro.
After weeks of negotiating, the dealership was able to sell Securus House a 2007 Chevy Uplander with only 18,000 miles on it for a greatly reduced price. The shelter's board of trustees paid the balance with money they had raised hosting several fund-raisers throughout the year.
Hayes said the new van "was critical" to the operations of Securus House, and that she was pleased the shelter would be able to start the new year with a newer, safer vehicle. Pat Altemus, executive director of Securus House, said "The shelter couldn't have had a better way to end 2007.
"I was totally surprised that we were getting the van today," said Altemus. "This has been a major need for us for some time. We will be able to do a lot of things for our clients in the new year."
Altemus said that many times, the women coming to the shelter are in extreme danger from abusive husbands, and some times, need to be transferred to other shelters -- as far away as Savannah -- for their protection. The Aerostar would have never made it that far, she said.
"Before, we wouldn't dare put our transportation on the road to do that," said Altemus. "[The new van] allows us to provide very reliable transportation for our clients."
Terry Cullen, owner of Terry Cullen Chevrolet, said it is difficult during the holidays to provide charity to everyone that comes along. However, he said he had "a soft spot" for the children, who often suffer as a result of the abusive relationships of their parents.
"It really pains me to see ... especially in the Christmas season ... Children who are going without," said Cullen. "We've been very lucky and successful in this community. It is really a blessing to be able to help somebody."