Domestic Violence Shelter Seeking Male Volunteers

Jennie Miller
June 28, 2011

OAKLAND COUNTY — For a child whose only image of a man is that of the monster who beats up Mom, programs like one offered at Haven are vital.

Haven, a nonprofit organization based in Bingham Farms, works to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault through programs and services all over Oakland County and the surrounding communities.

“We have counseling, shelters, our crisis and support line, our court advocacy program, first response and our prevention education program,” said Belle Kleinberg, volunteer coordinator at Haven.

The organization also has a male mentoring program that pairs male volunteers with children who have witnessed family violence to serve as healthy, nonviolent role models. The program seems to have had an incredible impact on the children, Kleinberg said, and Haven is seeking additional male volunteers to serve as mentors for approximately two hours a week.

Jason Smith, 24, of Eastpointe began volunteering at Haven after a college project introduced him to the organization and he saw the work being done. He wanted to be a positive role model for kids, an element he says is lacking in today’s society.

“I wanted to show children that not all men or women are abusive,” Smith said. “These kids are really the future and are a major part of our community, and we should care. … As men, we need to stand up and show that domestic violence and sexual abuse isn’t something we are afraid to stand up against. We need to show women and children that we do care, and will not stand for abuse.”

Smith is in the social work program at Oakland University. He spends a few hours a week at Haven in his spare time.

“I really enjoy just the interaction with the children, and seeing the kids smile,” he said.

Shawn McGowan, 30, of Livonia, who works for UPS, was searching for volunteer opportunities on the Internet and came across Haven. He was looking for something to do, a way to give back, he said. He felt drawn to Haven, and wanted to help. For the past year, McGowan said, he’s been spending a few hours every week or every other week at the organization.

“I don’t know what it’s like growing up without a father, but I couldn’t imagine it,” McGowan said. “If you can provide a little of that for them — most times the (worst) person in their lives was their dad or their mother’s boyfriend. So it’s just to show them that not everyone is like that. It doesn’t have to be like that.”

Haven is looking for men who are energetic, patient and who can serve as a positive role model. Volunteers undergo 24 hours of training before working with the children.

“A lot of our children, the only guy that they know is the one that’s been hurting Mom,” Kleinberg said. “This program gives them the chance to hang out with someone in a positive environment and the chance to see what it’s like to hang out with a good, strong, healthy guy. If a problem arises during the activities, when there are 10 kids running around, the male mentor is there to step in and handle this in a different way, using your words, and the kids see how to settle differences without turning to violence. We all kind of grow up learning whatever our parents show us — those are our first and strongest role models in many ways. But if there’s conflict in the home — this is a third-degree emergency shelter, so they’re there because they’re in a high-risk situation — the things these kids are seeing in these homes is not good. This program shows them other ways to behave and act and deal with emotional conflict or even just having a bad day. They’re able to see men model those behaviors in a different light.”

For more information about Haven and its programs and services, visit or call (248) 334-1284.