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Gateway to hope: Efforts to fight domestic violence to be honored
Gateway House founders, from left, Deborah Mack, Lynda Askew and Julia Cromartie look over scrapbooks about the history of the center that offers help to victims of domestic violence. The trio, along with other founders Sissy Lawson and Kathy Gosselin, will be honored tonight at the Gateway to Hope banquet at the Gainesville Civic Center. - photo by Tom Reed

Five founding members of the Gateway Domestic Violence Center will be honored tonight at the Gainesville Civic Center during the Gateway to Hope benefit.

The Gateway center is a United Way agency that serves 13 counties in North Georgia.

The shelter provides housing, food, therapy and other services to women and children who have been victims of domestic violence.

The benefit will feature food and wine tasting from local restaurants, live and silent auctions and live music from the Sock Hops. Items from the auction range from flowers for a year from Alene’s Flower Shop to a hunting trip for four.

Jessica Butler, the center’s executive director, expects it to be a fun night and is excited to honor the five women.

"These are the five women who were involved in the very beginning and are still involved today," Butler said.

"We’re happy to have anyone come. The food’s going to be fabulous, the band’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a good night," she said.

Sissy Lawson, Deborah Mack, Kathy Gosselin, Lynda Askew and Julia Cromartie will be honored for their efforts to start the shelter.

Cromartie formed a Domestic Violence Task Force after hearing from Janet Scott, a counselor with community services, about women complaining of physical abuse. That was 26 years ago.

Since then, she has served on the board of directors, is currently on the advisory board and volunteers at the shelter.

Cromartie spent a lot of volunteer time in the children’s program, teaching the dangers and alternatives of violence.

"They are beautiful, wonderful children. They are the silent victims," Cromartie said.

Deborah Mack, Hall County commissioner, is an advisory board member for Gateway and has been a part of the center since it opened in 1982.

"I’m concerned about members of the community. I hate it when a mother and her children have to leave home with no place to go," Mack said.

Mack said she is feels the public needs to be educated about domestic violence and women also need to know there is a place to go for help.

"I wish we didn’t have to have them (shelters)," said Mack, who has held many fundraisers for the center and still encourages others to volunteer.

Lynda Askew, also an advisory board member, spent 20 years on the directors board and was involved in the task force with Cromartie.

"At the time it (domestic violence) was not on anyone’s radar screen, that’s not the kind of community we want to have," Askew said.

Askew said that being honored is "very humbling" but wanted to say "thank you to those who have planned to come because you are honoring the work that Gateway does."

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