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Trailblazing: Newhouse

Imagine the phone ringing 21,000 times when the voice on the other end of the line is begging for help in a domestic abuse situation. During the last 50 years in the existence of Newhouse, that is the approximate number of calls they have taken for requested assistance from, primarily, women. While victims of domestic abuse span all genders, historically, females are the most common victims. 

Newhouse has been providing help and hope for women and children in the Kansas City area for 50 years now. Founded in 1971 by Sharon Garfield and Dortha Mae Olsen, the organization and its environs serve as a safe haven. The mission of Newhouse is to be “the catalyst for survivors of domestic violence to rise through the impacts of trauma by providing an ecosystem of transformative services that lead to safety, self-sufficiency, and whole-person healing.” 

Dortha Mae Olsen, co-founder of Newhouse


The first Newhouse shelter, from 1971-1988

“Every survivor deserves to have the request for help met. As a community, it is up to us to take action and stand with survivors. Domestic violence never takes a break, and neither does Newhouse,” Courtney Thomas, president and CEO, proudly stated. Courtney and her team estimate that in 2021 alone, more than 8,000 hotline calls were made, and 200 individuals were housed through their emergency shelter, hotel stays, and transitional housing. That equates to more than 21,000 safe bed nights for adults and children. 

When Jennifer arrived at Newhouse, she was fleeing a marriage filled with violence and trauma. While she appeared quiet, she also had a quiet strength, and Jennifer took part in therapeutic services, saw her case manager weekly, and worked to find stable housing and a career. Eight years later, and still living in the same apartment Newhouse helped to secure, Jennifer is working for another social services agency. She is now passionate about building a community partnership with Newhouse to ensure survivors receive the same kind of help that she did. That, in a nutshell, is breaking the cycle. 

Carly Dexter, Early Learning Center coordinator


Brittany Leathers, director of educational innovation

Domestic violence is a multifaceted issue. In order for Newhouse to be able to assist women in survival, it takes strategic collaboration, partnerships, and resources to help in the process of responding, shifting, and shattering the barriers that feed the cycle of domestic violence. Volunteers make a huge difference at Newhouse! They can help the Early Learning Center teachers with activities, organizing, and cleaning, maintain and beautify outdoor spaces, assist with administrative projects, prepare and serve meals, host a fundraiser, and so much more! Oh, and don’t forget the skilled and compassionate people who volunteer to answer the phone, time after time. 

Featured in the March 19, 2022 issue of The Independent.
By Anne Potter Russ


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