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Organization reweaves tattered lives

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Karen Rhodes

MANTEO, N.C. – The Outer Banks Hotline used to discard the tattered clothing found among the donations made to its thrift stores in Manteo, Kitty Hawk, Nag’s Head, Buxton and Rodanthe.

But the new Endless Possibilities weaving program has afforded a way to salvage those pieces, and has proven to be a powerful metaphor for clients.

Headquartered in Manteo, the Outer Banks Hotline supports victims of domestic violence and sexual assault throughout Dare County and the surrounding community with a 24-hour crisis telephone hotline, shelter services, emergency response, court advocacy, assistance with victims’ compensation applications, counseling, support groups and referrals to other agencies, and even abuser treatment. It also helps displaced homemakers with education and training.

Lynn Bryant, executive director, recounted the story of a shelter client who had fled home and abandoned her business to escape an abusive relationship. The woman was paralyzed by despair and didn’t know what to do with herself, says Bryant. So the shelter staff sent her to weave.

“At the end of making her first rug, she said, ‘I feel like I am taking the tattered parts of my life and putting them back together when I’m weaving,'” says Bryant. “And we realized that we had serendipitously hit upon a wonderful, therapeutic exercise.”

The organization’s mission is promoting a safe and compassionate community.

In essence, the group weaves a network of support “to really undergird all the other services, to fill in the gaps and to help people in crisis, so that the community as a whole is connected,” says Bryant.

This past fiscal year, the Outer Banks Hotline served 360 victims of domestic violence, 97 victims of sexual assault and 29 displaced homemakers, in addition to providing shelter to 88 adults and 82 children, operating from a total budget of about $1.4 million.

Almost $1 million of that came from thrift-store sales, with sales from Endless Possibilities contributing almost $100,000. The rest of the group’s income is derived from grants, private donations and an annual Christmastime Festival of Trees fundraiser.

The staff is made up of 25 employees, more part-time than full, and nearly 300 volunteers, most of whom run the thrift stores.

The Outer Banks Hotline runs a tight financial ship, and those thrift-store donations that couldn’t be sold also couldn’t be thrown away without triggering criticisms of wastefulness.

A local weaver convinced the Hotline to obtain some looms and start recycling those piles of ripped-up fabric into rugs. The Hotline now owns 17 looms and has a prominent storefront presence that attracts residents and tourists alike.

Back in 1980, the Outer Banks Hotline was founded as an all-volunteer crisis telephone line by Beth Storie, who had worked on a student-run hotline while enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill. Under the guidance of Storie’s successor, Nancy Griffin, the Outer Banks Hotline was the first organization of its kind in the state to open a thrift store.

Today, with domestic-violence services available in every county of North Carolina, what makes each program different is how it fits into its community, says Bryant.

The Outer Banks Hotline’s distinct flavor comes from “not only the generous spirit of the community but also the creative, sort of pirate, ‘we’re going to survive at any cost, take what we have and make it work’ mentality,” she says.

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