CHOICES is hosting its annual Peacemakers Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 15


CHOICES, a Columbus organization that helps victims of domestic violence, is hosting its annual Peacemakers Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Held at the Hilton Downtown Columbus, this free luncheon serves as an opportunity to educate the community on domestic violence and to honor a person or group in the area who has supported the cause.

This year, CHOICES is welcoming Kim Jacobs, Columbus police chief, as the keynote speaker of the event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. We chatted with Jesse Jones, development director for CHOICES, about the organization and how people can help. To learn more or to register for the luncheon (make sure to RSVP by Oct. 11), visit CHOICESColumbus.org.

-Heather Weekley, @heather_weekley

For those who don't know much about the organization, can you share a bit of background on CHOICES and its mission?

CHOICES is for victims of domestic violence. It is a play on words-there are choices for victims, and everyone deserves to have CHOICES in Columbus. We're the only domestic violence shelter in Franklin County. We have been around for 36 years, and a lot of people don't know about us because domestic violence is just now coming to the forefront of society's issues. For a long time, it was thought of as a deep, dark, sad topic. Now, it is started to be talked about more. We want victims to see our crisis and info hotline. It's 24 hours. We get women calling for their daughters. Sometimes teenagers call wondering if their friends are in an abusive relationship. We get calls all over the state and even all over the country. We've seen incredible increases.

What kind of services does CHOICES provide to victims?

Our shelter has 29 beds and five cribs. We have been full for most of 2013. One family leaves and a room is taken over the next day. It's for women and children only, but we wish we had a separate space for men. Homeless shelters give you food and a bed and you leave the next day. We have women and children there 24 hours a day. The average length of stay is 20 days, and we think that's because it's long enough for you to make a plan. Around 30 days, we try to empower women to take charge of their own lives, but we never kick anyone out. We have a children's room, a living room and support groups. Sometimes these women need counseling, but they also need recreation and friendship.

What happens at the October luncheon?

Our Peacemaker Awards Luncheon is every October, and we have done it for more than 10 years. We give an award to a person, organization or business making an impact in the world of domestic violence, whether it's with CHOICES or a more global scale. Another unique element to the luncheon is there is no ticket price. The reason being is that we want everyone to receive domestic violence awareness. We get more than 650 people every year, and we raise more than $100,000 each year. Instead of the doom and gloom, we want you to know about the impact we're making.

Along with the luncheon, how can people help?

Individual donors can give at any time online through our website. They can give through the Columbus Foundation. It can be one time or a monthly withdrawal. We always need gift cards to give to our clients. We've given CVS gift cards, gas cards and bus passes. Our numbers are increasing and we're starting to see a waiting list with our counselors and advocates. If we were a business we'd be booming. The need is growing, so we need to grow. There's a wish list on our site for item donations, and it's updated monthly. It all just depends on what the needs are in the shelter.