The Sojourner Family Peace Center has been a godsend for people in our area recovering from violence and abuse. On Tuesday, TODAY'S TMJ4 partnered with the organization to raise awareness.
"This was my first job after getting my Master's Degrees in Counseling and Social Work, and I never left," says Dolly Grimes-Johnson, the Shelter Director at Sojourner Family Peace Center. "I always say Sojourner chose me to do this work, and it's really been my life's work. It's a passion of mine. A mission."
Dolly has worked at Sojouner for 34 years, and doesn't plan to stop anytime soon.
"People ask me when I will retire," she says. "My answer for them, is when I stop breathing. I truly think that we are making a difference here. I won't stop until I physically can't do it anymore."
Dolly works directly with local women and children who escape abuse. She has impacted thousands of lives over the years, even helping to deliver the babies of at least five women living in the shelter.
Even though there is a lot of pain and sadness in what she does, she focuses on the progress she sees in each woman who arrives.
"Often at first, some of these women are not even able to lift their heads and look me in the eye and tell me their stories. But then in a few weeks, we see these women smiling, and their heads are lifted up and there's just a whole difference in how they're carrying themsevles. That's success."
Dolly has experienced that kind of change first-hand. She spent the first eight years of her life in an abusive orphanage in Liberia.
"The girls were abused every night," she describes. "We were too afraid to disclose what was happening to us. We felt helpless. That's why I've always wanted to make sure no other women or children feel that way."
Dolly was saved by a loving couple who adopted her. It's now her honor to be that source of love and protection for so many others.
She says the biggest thing we can all do is be aware that domestic violence is still so prevalent, and work to reduce the stigma associated with it. If you experience or witness something that's not right, don't ignore it. Sojourner's 24-hour hotline is 414-933-2722.