December 4, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Once a month, members of the Raggedy Ann Homemakers Club have faithfully brought a hot meal to warm the stomachs, and perhaps warm some hearts, at the Safe Place Shelter House.

Club member Joan Coffey has long been a volunteer at the facility, acting as a mentor and a driver to pick up a child at one of the hundreds of Safe Place spots in Jefferson County. She also speaks at schools to educate children about the program.

When Coffey was club president she saw the meals as something the entire club could do to help the shelter, and they've been doing it for eight years now.

"Because of my involvement there, I saw that these kids need attention," she said. "They need positive role models more than anything. They are coming from situations where they don't see a lot of kind adults a lot of times. I thought our Homemakers (club members) could come in here and just be a friendly face. So once a month we go down there."

The meal each month is lasagna, bread sticks and either a green or Jello salad. A graham cracker cookie made each month by two Homemakers at large has become very popular with the teens and staff.

"The kids are very appreciative," Coffey said.

In addition to the meals, the club also has gotten involved in additional areas with Safe Place. For the past five years, they decorate the tables for the National Safe Place convention that's held in Louisville. They also help serve at receptions.

"It's a great project for us," Coffey said. "I think it lets these kids see that here's somebody that's trying to pay attention to you, to be nice to you for no reason and let them see that there are good people."

Homemaker clubs are a part of the activities of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Nelda Moore, Jefferson County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, said volunteering is a part of the Homemakers clubs.

"They have educational lessons but they've also always gone out to the community and volunteered," she said. "I would venture to say that every club does some type of volunteer work, but maybe not to this extent. This is very much a unique, active club."

Safe Place programs are operated by YMCA Safe Place Services. The program that began in Louisville nearly 30 years ago is in more than 200 communities nationally. The local Safe Place program gives youth access to immediate help in times of crisis. There are more than 300 businesses in the Louisville area where teens can ask for help. A yellow and black sign with the words Safe Place on it is displayed at these businesses. Safe Place provides crisis intervention, counseling, outreach and prevention.

The Shelter House has 24 beds and the average stay is 10 to 14 days, said Dennis Enix, executive director of the YMCA's Safe Place Services. Enix said they are always looking for volunteers, and the meals provided by the Raggedly Ann club really work out well.

"A lot of the kids will say, when are the ladies with the lasagna coming back," he said. Enix said Safe Place's goal is to get teens and their families into early support and intervention services to keep them from having to go through the court and state systems. Eight of 10 teens they see are successfully reunited with their families, he said. Rita Murphy, who oversees meals at the facility, said the kids really enjoy their visits with the Homemakers.

"It's just that extra attention that they get and just knowing that someone has taken time out to do this for them," she said. "They truly appreciate it. And they just think it's the best meal they've ever had. For staff, it is such a treat as well."

Raggedy Ann Homemakers is the only volunteer group that provides meals for the facility, but they would love to have more, Murphy said. The meal allows them to stretch their food budget and provide more snacks throughout the month.

"It really does help quite a bit," she said.



Nelda Moore, (502) 425-4482