In 1974, a handful of Lee County residents took action against a prevailing social problem: violence against women.
They founded the county's first rape crisis center, opened Lee's first "safe shelter" and, in the process "changed the face of our community and saved countless lives," according to the Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc. website
Today, ACT's mission has greatly expanded.
The organization that began by offering services out of its founders' homes before incorporating as an official nonprofit continues to provide shelter and assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault but also targets those harmed by sexual trafficking, a growing scourge.
Now serving three counties, ACT provides "emergency protective shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, one-on-one counseling, advocacy, support groups, rape crisis center, outreach counseling, batterer's intervention groups, children's program, community and professional education and awareness, and information and referrals to those seeking assistance in other matters," actabuse.com states.
In 2014 alone, ACT handled 11,851 24-hour hotline calls.
The agency served 723 residential clients, providing 16,954 counseling hours and 25,389 total shelter nights. It served 4,835 non-residential clients, providing 15,345 counseling hours along with information and referrals, according to actabuse.com .
The numbers served are impressive and made possible through volunteers, grants and donations of various types.
As a community, we can help.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and ACT has teamed up with a number of local organizations and businesses to raise awareness on the continued impact of domestic violence while also raising much-needed funds.
The first event is a special preview party set for Thursday, Sept. 29, as a prelude to ACT's signature fundraiser, the Arts for ACT "The Disco Ball" Gala & Fine Art Auction. Brodeur Carvell Fine Apparel will host the "Boogie Down Event" that will feature a private art showing, fashions, wine, hors d'oeuvres, door prizes and a trunk show.
For the "official" kickoff, ACT has partnered with the Pediatric Dentistry of Fort Myers, Apothicare 360, and Erickson's Drying Systems for the second annual Snow Day event to be held Saturday, Oct. 1, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The fundraiser will take place at the dentistry office at 8016 Summerlin Lakes Drive in Fort Myers.
A "blizzard tent," "snow effects" and "snowball fun," will highlight the family-oriented event that also will feature bounce houses, local sports mascots, giveaways and entertainment.
For those who want to lend a hand, volunteers are needed. To sign up visit volunteersignup.org/J4WCH.
The main fundraiser is "The Disco Ball" gala and auction set for Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Harborside Event Center from 5 -10 p.m.
Attendees are invited "to don their finest polyester and platform shoes" for the party that will feature live entertainment, "incredible art from local and international award-winning artists," food, a silent auction and raffles.
The ball will be presented by Bill Smith Appliances and Electronics with cocktails provided by the Cape's own Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery.
For more information call (239) 939-2553 or visit www.actabuse.com where you can also find ACT's "wish list" of always-needed goods, make a donation, or volunteer.
We thank all of those who, through the last 40-plus years, have dedicated countless hours to aid the people behind the statistics.
We thank those who have donated cash, services or goods to make ACT's efforts possible.
And we urge those who can get involved to do so.
Abuse is a community concern. Through donations and volunteerism, we can help make a difference.