Last Saturday, Payson's Time Out Shelter held its 6th annual fund-raiser for victims of domestic abuse at Mario's Restaurant. More than 175 people showed up, donated cash and raffle items, and helped to raise in excess of $10,000 after the expenses for the event were paid for.
It was a record sum for the organization. And no one is happier about this turn of events than Darlene Curlee, the executive director of Time Out.
"This money means a great deal," said Curlee, who has led Time Out for two years and been deeply involved in it for six. "I think what a lot of people don't realize is that, although we get state and federal grants, we have to match grants. So we need a certain amount of money all the time in order to do that."
The same rule of financing applies to the Time Out thrift store, Curlee said.
"The money it generates helped us to buy the property the shelter is on we make payments every month and to buy our (transitional building across the street from the main shelter). The whole reason we hold these annual benefits is to match funds and make those payments."
The smashing success of the fund-raising is Time Out's second in a single month. October, the nation's Domestic Awareness Month, was a high period for Time Out, too.
"This year our shelter has been overflowing," Curlee said. "We're licensed for 14 clients, we've had up to 21 in the shelter, and have had an average for the year of 18. But does that mean domestic violence is getting worse?
"No. I believe that we are finally getting the information out, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month really helps us to do that. I believe it's getting deeper into the community, more people are aware we're here, and more victims are aware that maybe they can escape (domestic violence)."
Time Out formerly a resident-only shelter is growing in many other ways as well, Curlee said.
"We now service so many non-residents, I can't tell you how many. We do all of the legal work for them, because there's no legal aid here; all of our book-study groups are open to non-residents; we have a children's coordinator now, for residents and nonresidents; teen groups; and we have just started male victim groups.
"Why? Again, I just believe we're getting the information out there. I'm just thrilled to death. It's exhausting, but I'm thrilled."
Born in Phoenix, Curlee was 17 when she moved to Riverside, Calif. There, she met and married her husband, Landon, in 1955, and the couple remained in Southern California until they both "retired" (that's her word) to Payson 12 years ago.
Curlee had worked as a volunteer for domestic violence organizations for more than 20 years. At first, it was a sideline interest as she worked as a cosmetics buyer and manager. But it became much more than that .
"I was raised in an alcoholic family," she said. "Consequently, you always carry those (memories). Even when you get out of it, a lot of anxiety remains in you. So I finally reached out and was fortunate enough to find a counselor who knew something about what I was going through.
"He referred me to a place that deals with behavioral problems ... and that's when I became very interested in the study of domestic abuse. I attended and facilitated co-dependency groups, Al-Anon groups, Adult Children of Alcoholics groups ..."
And then, suddenly, Curlee retired. Ha ha.
"When we moved to Payson in 1988, I was totally retired," she said. "Never planned on working again."
But involvement in her church led to involvement with a local therapist which led her to involvement with some people who were starting the Time Out Shelter.
"It had been open for about a year when they called and asked me if I'd like to work there. I said, 'No, I don't have time.' Six months later, I got another call, and I said the same thing. The third time they called, this woman said, 'I'll ask you one more time if you'll come.'
"I told her I'd work Saturdays. Then somewhere down the line, I started working Mondays and Tuesdays. Then we got a new director, and I agreed to become the program director so long as, down the line, she would be replaced."
That never happened. The new director died in March of 1998, and the job was offered to none other than ...
"I sat here for probably two or three weeks fighting it," Curlee remembered. "But one day, I just decided that I was supposed to take the position. And I believe that to this day."
So ... is Darlene Curlee ever going to actually retire?
"When I feel like the time is right," she said. "And when that time comes, I won't have a problem with it. I'm a very firm believer in God. To be perfectly honest, I believe God wanted me to take this job. And I believe he will tell me when to quit.
"Until then, I will be here," she added with a smile, looking happier than most genuine retirees.