As Women’s Aid in Luton celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, it is driving a campaign to raise awareness in the community.
Founded as a small voluntary organisation in 1974, the charity now has four refuge houses for women and their families in Luton.
Although strongly recognised as a domestic violence charity, Women’s Aid in Luton, based on Park Street West, also offers support to single women and many women who are elderly.
Head of service, Jane Firmin said: “We can’t ever be surprised at who comes to us for help.
“After people come to us in a crisis, it’s an emergency situation. They are leaving families and communities to come to a safe place. That brings a lot of turmoil. It’s a whole change for them and their children.
“Women come to us first and foremost with experience of domestic violence, then other issues can emerge. It’s all about their needs, what they want support with and how we can empower them.
“I think the moment we expect not to be shocked will be the moment we need to look at the bigger picture. There are always new problems coming through.”
The charity relies heavilyon support from volunteers.
Retired saleswoman Denise Dawson began volunteering with the charity after donating some toiletries.
She said: “I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve learnt a lot, especially about the benefits system and agencies out there.
“Going to the refuge houses, I was concerned there would be a lot of sadness, but instead there was so much hope for the future.
“In one house, there were three women of different ethnic backgrounds teaching each other cooking skills. It was very uplifting.”
Donna Alexander, fundraiser for Women’s Aid in Luton, added that they plan to host their own Great British Bake-Off in coming months, and appear at the University of Bedfordshire freshers’ fair alongside other events.
To find out more, visit www.womensaidinluton.org or call 01582 876636.