DOVES Network, a domestic violence support group based in Maricopa, will hold its third annual “You Are Not Forgotten Christmas Drive” this year.
Each year, DOVES Network partners with local shelters and families in the community to provide Christmas gifts for teens impacted by domestic violence. The group’s goal is to remove the financial barriers of the holiday season for 200 youngsters and their families.
The program is unique in that it focuses on teens and their needs during the holidays. Donations are collected each year and then organized and displayed in the common areas of shelters, turning them into “Holiday Boutiques,” as Tiffany Mensah, executive director of DOVES, explained.
“Families in shelters can shop safely via the centers to select a gift for their teens,” Mensah said. “This initiative will offer the families some control as they choose gifts in a safe environment. We want to show families and youth impacted by domestic violence that they are not forgotten.”
The concept came about from the reality that families with domestic violence, especially teens, are often left unsupported, most notably during the holidays.
DOVES is an acronym for Daily Overcoming Violence and Embracing Safety.
The organization assists youth who have been exposed to domestic, sexual or childhood violence through support groups.
“Many kids who are living in these conditions don’t have a safe place where they can talk freely or process their feelings,” Mensah said. “We offer youth peer groups where these kids can connect with others.”
DOVES also offers teens a chance to find a positive outlet for their feelings.
“We want to be there to help them learn how to cope and how to reframe negative thoughts and learn how to deal with their emotions,” Mensah said. “The goal is to help them find something they excel at and find their own superpowers, and down the road get a job, write a resume and succeed in life.”
Mensah works in agile operations for Rocket Mortgage, a position where she helps divisions of the company quickly adjust to changing trends in the marketplace.
Mensah, a native of Michigan, moved to the Valley nearly 10 years ago and three years after that, moved to Maricopa.
After writing a book about her childhood in a home marred by domestic abuse, and discussions with her husband about her personal story, Mensah wanted to help others. She started by publishing her book, “Forgotten, a Memoir: Living in the Shadow of Domestic Violence,” which originated as a paper in college.
For Mensah, the mission of DOVES is a personal one.
“I started seeing it (abuse) at the age of 9 and I didn’t know a lot of that trauma was going to follow me,” Mensah said. “It wasn’t until I got into corporate America in my early 20s and having to tell myself the truth and deal with the fact of why I was acting out in so many different ways.”