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According to one YWCA official, 432 people were in attendance at the Purse and Passion fundraiser luncheon.

PELL CITY -- Stephanie sat at the back table, watching as pictures of her and other victims of domestic violence flashed across the large screen during Thursday’s 2018 YWCA Purse & Passion fundraiser luncheon in The Beacon at Pell City First United Methodist Church.

“My husband shot my arm off,” Stephanie said, as tears began to swell in her eyes. “They had just opened Our Place at the time.”

That was almost 10 years ago, when Stephanie and her two children arrived at the shelter.

“That by far has been one of our greatest blessings,” Stephanie said. “I don’t know where we would be today.”

With the support and assistance from the YWCA Domestic Violence team, Stephanie returned to college, received a bachelor’s degree and became a nurse.

Today, Stephanie trains nurses.

“Because of that, I have a wonderful job and I am able to support me and my children,” Stephanie said.

As she sat in the crowd, she recalled coming to The Beacon a decade ago to talk about her brutal attack that her now 13-year-old daughter witnessed, and how Our Place provided a safe haven for her and her children.

“My kids and I are so blessed,” she said.

Stephanie said she and her daughter were able to receive “really good counseling.”

“It helped me and my children in so many ways,” she said. “My daughter and I do volunteer work in the community now.”

She said doctors reattached her arm, but she still suffers from the injury inflicted on that October 2009 day.

“When I pulled up today, looking for a parking space, I have never been so excited to see so many cars,” Stephanie said. “It’s a blessing that it (Purse and Passion) has grown this much.”

She said the group is much bigger than when she spoke at the luncheon 10 years ago.

Maggie Brooks, president of the YWCA board of directors, said there were 432 people in attendance for the fundraiser luncheon, which she said was catered by another domestic violence survivor, Tessie.

This was the fifth year Cindy and Blair Goodgame co-chaired the event, which saw its most ever sponsors and raised $70,263.

Blair said this year’s Purse and Passion theme was “Transforming Lives.”

She said Our Place has changed the lives of thousands of women and helped them realize their dreams, while attempting to eradicate domestic violence.

“As you can see, we have a full house,” said Yolanda Sullivan, the CEO for YWCA Central Alabama. “To our sponsors – your investment will truly save lives.”

Vernetta Bowman, the Rural Domestic Violence Services coordinator who oversees Our Place, said the need for a shelter is great.

“Our shelter is full, and we have a waiting list,” Bowman said.

She said Our Place provides much more than a place to live for victims and their children.

“We provide a community, counseling to help them realize they do have worth, transportation for kids so they (mothers) can start working to get back on their feet, financial education -- so many, many things that help them turn things around,” Bowman said. “It’s hard to break the cycle of domestic violence, but these women are doing it, and they are doing it for themselves and their children.”

This year’s Purse and Passion luncheon not only recognized past domestic violence survivors, but also Dr. Jenny Gauld, who was instrumental in expanding the YWCA’s domestic violence services in St. Clair and Blount counties.

Since 2009, YWCA’s Our Place has provided legal assistance, support and shelter to more than 7,400 victims of domestic violence.