The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 4, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Safehouse in Pittsburg has held on through good will of community

PITTSBURG, Kan. — It was what I think of as “journalist serendipity” that a certain Pink Lady would have been on duty at the front desk of Via Christi Hospital this past Thursday morning.

As I covered the presentation of a mountain of supplies rounded up by hospital employees and donated to Safehouse, a shelter for battered women and their children, I wondered how the place got its start.

Peggy Bennett, who watched the presentation with a smile, had reason to do so: She was involved in the creation of Safehouse, and she is proud of how far it has come.

Now retired, Bennett worked at the Pittsburg Police Department as an administrative assistant in the 1970s. She remembers being approached by two nontraditional (translation: older) college students from Pittsburg State University who had an idea.

Their names were Phyllis Baxter and Molly Tremain, and Bennett believes some kind of personal connection to domestic abuse, coupled with their interest in women’s studies, prompted them to want to start a women’s protective shelter.

“Working at the Police Department, we were well aware that there were women in our town who had no place to go,” Bennett recalled. “So the police chief, Jack Spencer, said, ‘We will do this.’”

Bennett was the first member of the Safehouse board of directors. She recalled Tamaris Huddleston from Legal Services giving the first $50 to register Safehouse for nonprofit status, and someone coming up with a simple logo.

“We put together money from our own pockets for business cards and stationery,” Bennett said. “In the beginning, we got people to agree to bring women and their kids into their homes because we didn’t have a physical shelter. It was very grass-roots.”

The shelter soon would take up residence in a downtown second-story apartment that a business owner contributed. Volunteers hung sheets and blankets from the ceiling to create separate living and office areas. Bennett recalled that Judy Westhoff, now the city’s downtown development director, drummed up funding from the United Way. She also recalled inviting a county commissioner, Joe Saia, to look at the shelter; he was shocked that it had no kitchen, a tiny bathroom and donated mattresses. Saia gave $100 from his own pocket.

Later, a county ambulance employee contributed a fixer-upper of a home for the balance owed on it. Longtime local businessman Gene Bicknell gave money to cover that cost, and Mark Turnbull, now the city’s economic director, helped Safehouse secure grant funding to pay for renovations.

“It turned out gorgeous; we had three big dormitory-style rooms, offices, a bathroom, a laundry, a kitchen,” Bennett recalled. “We thought we were on easy street.”

The community’s interest in the organization began to grow, and eventually Safehouse would move to its current location.

Since those early days, Safehouse has given shelter to thousands of women and children seeking to escape domestic abuse; last week, 23 were receiving services there — an all-time high.

“I was amazed,” Bennett said of the number of women who have come forward seeking help. “I knew we had a lot of problems, but I had no idea that many.”

That’s why she was especially glad to be present to see the contributions made by Via Christi Hospital employees, who are among numerous civic, youth and charitable groups that have adopted Safehouse throughout the years.

“We started with nothing. But women were glad to have it,” Bennett told me.

“It means a lot to know that people today want to keep it going, that it still is making a difference.”

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

Text Only
Local News
  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: ‘Annie’ production is a family thing

    There’s a twist to this week’s production of “Annie” at Memorial Auditorium. The show, a beloved classic tale of an orphan girl in search of a family, is full of real-life family members.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514 Band Box.jpg Jo Ellis: Carthage icon continues to play in local restaurant

    Chicago Coin’s Band-Box, also known as “Strike Up the Band,” has been a Carthage icon since the mid- to late 1950s. Any customer who frequented Red’s Diner, or Ray’s Cafe, and now the Pancake Hut is familiar with the pulsating rhythms and movements of this mechanical device.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Gubernatorial hopefuls make area appearances

    Three potential candidates for Missouri governor in 2016 made stops in the Joplin area this past week.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • shoalcreekcleanup.jpg Wildcat Glades center puts on service day at Shoal Creek

    About 20 people on Saturday pulled trash out of Shoal Creek as they paddled in canoes and kayaks from Grand Falls to Zan’s Creekside Campground in Joplin.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hearts & Hammers plans annual home repair event

    Since 2003, volunteers with Hearts & Hammers of Southwest Missouri have made free improvements to more than 170 homes owned by the elderly, physically disabled, and single parent or low-income families.

    July 26, 2014

  • Money clouds farm fight

    For much of the summer, while the campaign surrounding “right to farm” has been focused on its impact on “small, family farmers,” the bulk of the money pouring into the fight has come from big agriculture interests.

    July 26, 2014

  • jameswelbornupdate.jpg Local teen completes half of solo river trip

    James Welborn, a recent Webb City High School graduate, has reached the halfway point of his solo canoe trip down the Mississippi River — just in time to celebrate his 19th birthday with family.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Neosho police warn residents of phone scam

    The Neosho Police Department has received complaints from residents saying someone impersonating a lieutenant from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office warrants division has been calling them.

    July 26, 2014

Must Read


A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to allow all students to eat free breakfasts and lunches. Would you agree with this provision?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter