The year Michal Adar-Orgad’s daughter turned 12 and was preparing to celebrate her bat mitzvah, she wanted to mark the event by instilling in her daughter a sense of empowerment.
“We are Israelis and in Israel you do something special throughout the year,” said Adar-Orgad, a ceramic artist and owner of Clay art & concept in Concord.
The Jewish ceremony marks the transition from childhood to young adulthood.
A Concord friend works for Transition House, a Cambridge nonprofit organization that strives to end domestic violence, and one Adar-Orgad believes helps to empower women. Doing something to help women who are escaping an abusive relationship and sheltering at Transition House seemed like the perfect opportunity to teach her daughter the meaning of empowerment.
That first year, she and her daughter made pillows for women staying at Transition House. They invited friends to write cards and pack up the pillows to send to Transition House, along with monetary donations.
Adar-Orgad chose Valentine’s Day as her target date “because someone has to show (the women) love.” The theme that year was “come and open your hearts.”
This year will mark the fifth fundraiser Adar-Orgad has hosted coinciding with Transition House’s 40th anniversary. The Feb. 16 event will again be held at the store and include discussion about Transition House and its role in the community.
Sarah Gyorog is the executive director of Transition House, a role that encompasses just about everything – from putting furniture together to balancing the budget.
“The movement and the work (are) very close to my heart,” she said.
Money raised at the event will be used “toward the love and care that our old shelter needs. So we are fundraising to improve our outdoor play area for children,” she said.
Women helping women
Transition House was founded in 1976 by two women who offered their own apartment to shelter women in danger at home. They soon realized their apartment was too small, so they bought a house in Cambridge.
“Right now we house people based on one criteria – that is folks are escaping imminent danger,” Gyorog said.
With room for nine families, the house is “full every single night,” she said.
Although the mission has always remained the same, the organization has grown a lot since that first apartment in the 70s. Staff is always on-site and they offer a community support partnership team, which includes court advocacy and counseling, an advocate for older people and a training component for any group that wants to learn more about domestic violence.
“The most common call (is) ‘do you have shelter.’ The second is ‘I have a friend that is experiencing domestic violence, how do we help them,’” Gyorog said.
A home for emergencies, a home for later
When people first come to Transition House they are often in crisis.
“So we are meeting their very basic needs. They sometimes will come literally with nothing, so that is Step 1 – making sure folks feel safe and comfortable,” Gyorog said.
Transition House does much more than just provide emergency shelter, though. In 2022 alone, they answered more than 1,000 hotline calls and were able to find permanent housing for 12 families.
Often, people stay in the shelter for one year, sometimes two, while a housing search coordinator helps them find a suitable place to live. Other staffers help people set up medical care and offer job training and job opportunities.
“Every family comes with different needs and different abilities,” she said.
It was these services that captured Adar-Orgad’s attention.
“What I like about Transition House is that they not only give (abused women) shelter and hide them from whoever wants to hurt them, but they do the entire thing – (they) transition (them) from being abused to being productive and taking care of themselves,” she said.
40 years, 40 stories
To mark its 40th anniversary, Transition House created 40 videos depicting the stories of different people involved with Transition House over the years. They will share some of those stories at the fundraiser.
Events like these are important for Transition House.
“We see ourselves in partnership with our community. We don’t think we are going to solve domestic violence on our own. It’s not possible for one small nonprofit. So, we hold these smaller social events in order to build relationships in our community and talk about how everyone can be engaged in ending domestic violence,” Gyorog said.
The fundraiser for Transition House will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16, at Clay art & concept, 114 Commonwealth Ave. The event will feature beverages, bites, raffles and art. Ten percent of all art sales will be donated to Transition House. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.com