Caring House speaker at Golden K

Jim Benzing, program chairman, introduces guest speaker Cheryl O’Neil, executive director of The Caring House in Iron Mountain.


For The Daily News

KINGSFORD — Vance Uhazie, chairman for the month of May, opened the weekly Golden K meeting. Jumping right in to direct, Ken Schultz got the morning off to a enjoyable half-hour of singing some lively “oldies.” Alyce Derwinski accompanied on the piano, keeping everyone focused on the melody making the music bounce off the walls in the fellowship hall at the First Presbyterian Church in Kingsford.

As the grass grows greener and flowers begin popping up everywhere, these seniors were more than ready to raise their joyful voices in welcoming the warmer weather. Happiness abounded throughout the room as Cheryl O’Neil was welcomed as guest speaker, Sharon Scholke collected her winnings from the 50/50 drawing and Happy Birthday wishes were sung for Ron Jouppi, May 7, and Diane Aune, May 8.

Some Happy Dollar thoughts reflected, John Corson touting his joy at his grandson winning second prize at the National High School Chess Tournament, and Jeannine Polkinghorne was thankful for a young man who came to help her put her groceries in her car. Grandchildren who bring a warm, fuzzy feeling to grandparents as they share in those special accomplishments and strangers stopping to help another — just because — make an ordinary day wonderful.

This Monday is the day set aside for Golden K road clean-up. Those members participating are to meet behind Pizza Hut in Iron Mountain after the general meeting, dress accordingly for the weather and the walking. He cautioned; be prepared — the ticks are out, so it may be helpful to spray clothing.

Jim Benzing, program chairman, introduced guest speaker Cheryl O’Neil, with this thought “Somewhere a door closes, while at the same time, another door opens.” Sadly we, at many times, dwell on that door that has closed, rather than the one that has opened. With more than 20 years of experience behind her, O’Neil knows the importance of securing a safe environment for those affected by domestic violence and/or sexual assault and how important is it to keep the doors opened to all.

Providing a safe environment for men, women and children who have experienced one or more of these crises in their life is a heartfelt commitment shared by O’Neil, her staff, law enforcement, prosecutors and a dedicated group of trained volunteers. Safety to victims at all times is the shared goal of all. Domestic violence and sexual abuse happens to adults; male and female, as well as children of all ages.

Children are vulnerable to anyone who professes to be their friend and convinces them they are the only ones who really cares about them. The internet is a big influence on children. Men, especially, find it hard to come forward, and women will endure their abuse time and time again. Abusers who may come to trial are oftentimes freed and continue to go on to find more victims. The Caring House dedicates itself to be non-judgmental, to listen to the victims’ stories and offer support. Team work among trained personnel, law enforcement, child protective services, nurses specifically trained in the hospital, and prosecutors, provide trained advocates who will follow the victim through their ordeal. The community and churches are essential to this team and should be aware of friends, family and neighbors who may be indirectly be calling for help.

Domestic violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking affects all communities with Michigan being the fifth-highest in human trafficking involving children. The Caring House works diligently to improve their services. Services are free and confidential. Support for the victims carries all the way through court, counseling, providing an advocate, and developing a safe environment for visitation. Plans to provide a forensic interview room, being able to record the stories and bring them direct to the prosecutors office will enable the case to be processed quicker. She and the Caring House are always looking for ways to better serve the victims. Some who are able to move forward need to have places to live, jobs to sustain them and supplies from clothes to household items. These things are available because of community support. Dishes, pots and pans, silverware and paper products are always welcomed at the Caring House Center. Spring cleaning is your opportunity to call the center and ask if they could use things you no longer need.

Intervention, counseling, support, and unified community support are the backbone of change. Teamwork among the professionals, trained volunteers, courts, hospitals, churches and the citizens in each community are coming together for their friend, neighbor, or family member who is in need.

The Caring House welcomes anyone who comes there for assistance and is more than ready to answer questions and provide resources where needed.

The Golden Throats will sing Wednesday at Freeman’s. The general meeting of the Golden K will host the Kingsford High School Jazz Band. All are welcome and you are sure to be royally entertained by these very talented young people.