Charites and murder typically don’t go hand in hand, but for Monroe’s Family Counseling and Shelter the annual Murder Mystery Dinner is essential to the organization.
The Family Counseling and Shelter is a non-profit organization located on 14930 LaPlaisance Rd. Suite 106.
“It’s unique for a nonprofit organization,” director Crystal Martin said.
Martin also mentioned the event’s silent auction.
“We receive lots of support from the county and local businesses,” she said.
The silent auction will be from 5 to 6:30 P.M. and the dinner will begin afterwards. The auction will feature prizes such as baskets and gift cards.
“We also have things like Toledo Mud Hens tickets,” she said, “and we usually put that together with a Toledo Package. So you could eat at Spaghetti Warehouse for four people. Or we might offer Detroit Princess Riverboat Cruise for two which has a $50 visit.”
In the past, the shelter has even offered trips such as four tickets to Splash Universe. Sports merchandise from the Red Wings or Pistons has also been offered as prizes.
The dinner will be $50 per person or $80 per couple.
“We’re the only one that has been doing them [mystery dinners] in the county and I think that makes it a cooler thing,” Martin said. “Plus we try to do raffles which you don’t do at other events.”
One of these raffles is the balloon raffle which involves 100 balloons with red and blue bandanas, for this year’s Wild West Theme. Participants purchase a $10 balloon and gather in a group to pop a balloon of their choosing, revealing the prize within.
“Inside the balloons is a number which coordinates to an envelope and inside the envelope is a gift card that’s worth at least $10,” Martin said. “I will say there are a few which are worth $5 but there could be up to $50 gift cards in a balloon.
“So you pay $10 for a balloon and you’re most likely going to get your money back.”
The dinner involves participants going around the gymnasium to solve the murder mystery from clues put together by the cast. All of this is operated in the corresponding theme of the event. Martin said they have had various fun themes such as St. Patrick’s Day and hula.
The cast operates as the storytellers of the event, leading groups from one clue to the next. The cast is composed of various members of the community such Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, who was crowned Miss America 1988.
Martin said the dinner is the largest source of the organization’s funds.
“The shelter doesn’t bring in any money so there are always a lot of needs financially,” Martin said. “We cover everyone’s food but we don’t receive any reimbursements towards food.
“We also only have a very little direct service money left which goes towards, for example, getting bus tickets. Lake Erie bus tickets for the clients over there.”
The shelter provides a variety of service including prevention programs, art classes, and S.M.I.L.E. for children of divorce. The shelter also provides identification.
“If they come in the middle of the night and have no documentation we get all their new documentation for them like driver’s license, birth certificates, social security cards, so we pay for all that,” Martin said.
The shelter operates out of an 18-bed facility for women and children. The funds from the dinner pay for repairs to the house.
The domestic shelters all work together in the state. Each shelter receives federal grant money and is told what each county should receive.
“We don’t ask for a certain amount of money,” Martin said. “They say ‘this is what Monroe County gets, what Washtenaw gets.’”
The process goes through Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment board. The shelters’ funds trickles through the DHHS, the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The shelters all work together to best accommodate the women, men, and children who visit them. The shelter will contact others to work with men and redirect them to a separate shelter since the Monroe shelter works with women and children.
“We [the shelters] all work together. So if our shelter is full but someone needs to get to safety we are immediately calling others,” she said. “So that’s the main thing I feel like the whole thing is just keeping people safe.”
Martin said the agency has been around for 53 years. They have operated as a counseling office since 1966 and have been trying to offer programs and services in a nonprofit aspect.
The domestic violence shelter was started in the 1980s. The shelter is for women and children who ‘are in immediate danger of an intimate partner.’
“That’s what our federal grant criteria are,” Martin said. “It’s a 90-day shelter and people can call our crisis hotline which operates 24/7. They either come to our shelter through that or the police station.”
The hotline number is 1-734-242-7233.
Everything at the shelter is free. When women come in with their children, they have free food, free clothing, free shelter, and free counselling. The shelter also offers free legal services and a full-time case manager which helps them find jobs and housing, helps them with paperwork and more.
“When you’re leaving your abuser and you’re trying to get off on your own this is super overwhelming,” Martin said. “So these are the ways we try to make things less overwhelming so you can move towards a positive path and start fresh.”
The shelter has been a United Way agency since 1967. But there are gaps between federal grants and United Way money.
“And being a nonprofit how do you make up those gaps?” Martin said. “PPOs – the Personal Protection Orders which are very important to have – we pay for those. Our United Way money helps with this but it doesn’t cover all of the costs.
“Our grants might not cover all of that so if that doesn’t cover it, United Way money doesn’t cover it because we don’t have any more for that division that’s where our fundraising money goes so it kind of goes where it’s needed.”
Dana Marshall, the shelter’s volunteer coordinator, said government grants have specific requirements which make if it difficult to cover all of the organizations costs.
“If it is something other than that spectrum you can’t use it,” she said. “Even if you do have money left you have to use for it specifically what they say you can use it for.”
“You can’t use federal grant money for prevention at all,” Marshall said. “So any prevention either has to come out of United Way money or from our fundraisers or donations. We’re required to have food at the shelter but they won’t reimburse us for it.”
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through,” Martin said.
Marshall and Martin both said the sexual assault program is also extremely important.
“I think it just depends on who you are and what you need,” Marshall said. “For the past two years we have had a sexual assault full time. Our domestic advocate was taking care of both beforehand.”
The shelter is known for domestic violence and sexual assault, but they also offer counseling. Martin says the organization’s licensed therapists work with all kinds of cases.
“There seems to be an increasing issue in the world where more and more people need mental health counselling,” Martin said. “It can be for anxiety, depression, suicidal, couples counseling, we see men, women, children, families so it can be for anything.”
College students who cannot afford high copays or do not have insurance can find refuge in this counseling office.
“We do take insurances here, but if we do not take your insurance we do things on a sliding fee scale. Which means we will base copays on your income so you can come for as low as $20,” Martin said.
“In some cases we see people for completely free because we will not turn anyone away who needs counseling and if they can’t afford it that’s not a reason that they can’t go to counseling.”
The shelter works with several schools and has seen an increasing rate of mental health issues beginning at younger ages, such as anger issues, behavioral issues, and emotional.
One of the counseling forms offered by the shelter is the prevention program. The prevention program focuses on relearning communication skills as opposed to angered outbursts.
Martin said they have been working with schools for the last year and half by offering art therapy groups which is directed towards anger management.
“Hopefully, if we start working with them at a younger age and build an understanding why they feel a certain way, why they’re acting a certain way, and being able to know how to control it how to understand it,” Martin said.
Martin said a lot of what the counseling division does relates to the prevention program. The shelter focuses on trying to figure out how to lower domestic violence numbers.
“We focus on how to we increase people feeling more emotionally supported, emotionally stable, mentally good about themselves,” she said.
The murder mystery dinner is the organization’s largest fundraiser. These funds support all of the offered programs including counseling, shelter, and sexual assault.
“There is a two-fold in there because obviously you want to make money so you can support your programs and services but it’s also a good way for people to know about your programs and services by coming to your event and being a part of it,” Martin said. “Building that camaraderie between the members of the community is so important.”
Sitting on Martin’s desk is a collection of family photos “Goals” is written above the framed photos of smiling children. The staff is motivated by the smiling faces they know and the tragedies they have seen.
“We’re all here because we want to help people,” Marshall said. “We’re not here to make the big bucks. We want to help people and I think what we offer is something you can’t really get anywhere else around here the way we do it.”
Martin agreed the staff is motivated by their cause.
“They are working here because they believe in what we do and what our mission is,” Martin said. “Everyone at some point in their life needs some kind of help. If we didn’t have our agency and other agencies in our county that are there when people need them…
“Where would they go?”
The Murder Mystery Dinner is on Saturday, March 30 at the campus’ gymnasium. The event begins at 5 P.M. and will run to 10 P.M.