Safe Space of East Tennessee cancels fundraising gala due to COVID-19 concerns

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — COVID-19 has caused many events to be canceled due to safety concerns or restrictions; now one more can be added to the list.

Safe Space of East Tennessee’s annual gala was canceled, leaving a big gap in fundraising for the nonprofit organization, which provides services for domestic violence victims.

Van Wolfe, director of Safe Space, said the gala was originally scheduled for March 26, but was postponed to June 25 due to COVID-19. Then, Wolfe announced Tuesday that the gala would be canceled for the year because she didn’t believe the climate for social gatherings would change by June.

She said the cancellation will hurt funding for the nonprofit because the gala is one of the larger fundraisers where Safe Space raises unrestricted money, meaning money with no strings attached.

Wolfe said the amount of money they raise at the gala is important because of funding, but what’s more important is the kind of money they raise through the gala. It’s not like money they receive through grants.

She said grant money can only be used in specified ways, usually relating to who the money came from.

“For example, the Jefferson Health Foundation grant that we receive is specifically for our violence prevention program that we do in the school systems, because their mission is the health and welfare of Jefferson County,” Wolfe said.

Unrestricted monies Safe Space receives from fundraisers, such as the annual gala, can be used for anything the nonprofit needs to use it for.

“We have to come up with the monies for staff, the salaries, for rents for our offices, groceries for our clients, maybe paying a bus ticket for one of them to get to another state for support,” Wolfe explained.

Wolfe said Safe Space, and other nonprofits, will most likely continue to have a hard time getting funds from their normal donors because everyone is struggling due to COVID-19.

She said they receive grants from United Way, which also had to cancel fundraising events since the pandemic.

With most of the court services closed and court hours changed, Safe Space won’t be receiving as much money from victims assisted assessment.

Three of the four counties Safe Space serves implemented the victims assisted assessment, which Wolfe said are fines issued through criminal courts for victims of crime.

“Those three counties combined total us about $40,000 a year in income, as far as the collection of those fines. We use that money a lot of times to match our federal grants and obviously to pay salaries, especially our legal advocates who are there in court every day with victims,” Wolfe said.

If less criminals are getting fined, then Safe Space won’t receive as much money from the courts.

She also said that there is a good chance they won’t receive as much money from local governments or organizations because nonprofit donations are usually cut from those budgets first.

Wolfe said the gala and other fundraisers aren’t only important to raise money.

The events also give survivors a chance to tell their stories.

“Every year at our gala, a survivor who we have served speaks, and it makes a world of difference for people who already support us to know exactly why they support us,” Wolfe said.

Because the gala was canceled, Safe Space has been trying to raise funds elsewhere.

Wolfe said she tries to add a donation option any time she posts on Safe Space’s Facebook page, which has helped a little.

She said that even though most businesses had to take a pause during stay-at-home orders, Safe Space never did.

Wolfe said their services will be even more needed once businesses reopen fully.

“We are still here, we never shut down, our services have not diminished in any capacity, yet we still need funding. So we’re hoping and praying you know that the funding comes through,” Wolfe said.

If you would like to donate to Safe Space of East Tennessee, and are able to, click here for the non-profit’s Facebook page.

More information can be found on the nonprofit’s website.

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