Growing up is tough, and being a young girl in today's society is tougher than ever. Three local women, however, aim to lighten the load on area girls, if only a little.
STAR [Strength to Always Rise] Haven is a non-profit organization that works with local girls, 10 to 17-years-old who are experiencing troubles or stressors in their every day lives.
From cyber-bullying, to drug addiction, to surviving the sex-trafficking trade, STAR Haven provides support, mentoring, and a positive sense of self to those who need it.
The outreach is the brainchild of local mother, and businesswoman Savannah Pulliam. STAR Haven incorporated as a licensed, registered outreach in December.
“I've always wanted to do something like this,” Pulliam told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “I was watching documentaries on human sex-trafficking, and decided it was time I acted on it.”
The next morning, Pulliam, 26, called friend, and fellow advocate Macie Wier. The duo recently worked together on a fundraiser for an American With Disabilities Act approved handicap swing at Reagan Park.
Their goal, Pulliam said, was met; they are just waiting on the city to install the swing.
“Anytime I have an idea like this, the first person I call is Macie,” Pulliam said.
Wier, 27, who has worked in child-care, and been a volunteer for most of her life, said when Pulliam called her, their visions for what they wanted to accomplish were nearly identical.
“I have a servant's heart, and want to instill that sense of giving in my children,” Wier, a mother of two told the Herald-Press. “These girls don't have to be victims; we plan to be here to help prepare them for life – which isn't always easy.”
STAR Haven is funded entirely by private donations, and funding from local businesses, like Killion's Collision, Jamie's Therapeutic Touch, Inspire Salon, and Freeway Insurance.
Still in it's beginning stages, the outreach does not have a permanent headquarters, and plans to meet at different locations until a suitable building is found.
“The ultimate goal is to be able to house girls in need,” Wier said. “I'm going to school for my business degree, and although we are an outreach, there are business aspects to our group, like funding, and finding a building. I hope to help with that.”
A third founder, Pulliam's aunt, Bonnie Blakey, is no stranger to helping those in need. A mother of two, Blakey has been working in mental health for years, and is currently earning her master's degree in psychology.
Blakey has also worked with a statewide crisis hotline, and family and youth crisis intervention services.
Equipping youth with social and behavioral life skills, Blakey told the Herald-Press, sets them up for success, and helps them face life's challenges.
“I'm excited about the opportunity to work with this organization,” she said. “I look forward to helping foster a positive connection in the lives of young people in the community.”
Several people have already signed up for STAR Haven's services, Pulliam said. The group plans to meet this month.
“Anonymity is paramount,” she said. “For these girls to feel comfortable, we have to make sure they feel safe.”
To ensure both comfortability and safety, the outreach is not yet accepting volunteers to work with members. When they do, Pulliam said, they will be looking to interview women, who should be ready to go through an extensive background check.
“We are accepting volunteers to come speak at our 'Reach for the Stars' program,” Pulliam said. “We try and motivate the girls to think about the future, and what they want to be. Then, we bring in women in those professions to speak to them about their dream careers.”
Those interested in STAR Haven can visit: https://starhaven.org/
For questions and donations, call: 903-922-7362 or 903-221-7212