A party with a purpose New Year's Eve event to benefit homelessness, domestic violence groups

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BENNINGTON — Two local organizations have teamed up to hold a celebration that aims to ring in the new year in style.

A musical act described as "Boston's most electrifying new dance band" will top the bill at Sunday's event being hosted by the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, and by Project Against Violent Encounters, or PAVE.

"The New Year's Eve Party With a Purpose" takes place Sunday from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at the Greenwall Auditorium at Bennington College. The cost to attend is $50 and includes hors d'oeuvres and appetizers by Ramuntos. Tickets are for sale online at Eventbrite and will be sold at the door.

The goal is twofold: To raise funds that support both local organizations' efforts, and to "give people something to do," according to Christopher Oldham, executive director for the coalition.

Oldham had heard people say that there weren't a lot of options for events on New Year's Eve. "We thought we could throw the New Year's Eve bash that Bennington has been waiting for," he told the Banner recently. And both the coalition and PAVE serve county residents in need with emergency housing, he noted.

The seven-piece band should offer music for everybody, Oldham said. "We wanted to bring a group of musicians who haven't been here before, that people haven't seen, and bring a different energy."

According to the band's website, the band covers "all of today's biggest chart-topping hits along with a tasty array of classic favorites" and will bring "exceptional vocals and high energy performance style."

Both Oldham and Linda Campbell, executive director for PAVE, said their organizations both help those in need of emergency shelter. The funds raised will be split 50-50, they said.

The fundraiser this weekend comes as temperatures this week dipped to the single digits. Oldham said the coalition's goal is to make sure people have a warm place to stay. The coalition's new 16-bed shelter is at maximum capacity, Oldham said. It replaced an old six-bed shelter.

"We're still in a position where we need to turn people away," he said, adding that the coalition tries to connect people in need with motel vouchers. "On the government level, they're pulling back on their part of the contribution. It makes it hard for us. We're doing way more with much less."

PAVE opened a second shelter last year because the need was so great, according to Campbell. Emergency housing is just one piece of the group's work. nurturing parent classes. They also connect victims with other agencies that offer vital services for their family to start over and succeed.

Some victims of domestic violence may need legal assistance and court advocacy, Campbell said. Others need transportation. Many need financial assistance to pay for food and utility bills: By the time a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she could have poor credit, no income, and no childcare.

"There are services that can't be covered by grants," Campbell said. "It's fundraisers like this that help us provide those comprehensive services."

PAVE also offers support groups, workshops and other services to help heal the effects of emotional, physical and financial abuse.

Recovering, Campbell said, is a process.

"So many times, people ask, 'Why doesn't a victim just leave?' " she said. "But the national average is that women leave seven times before they get out of an abusive relationship. It's not easy for women to just close the door and walk away from a relationship." It could take years and the relationship could have borne children, silent witnesses to the abuse in a household. "It's a very difficult process for people to leave. But it can happen and does happen"

For more information about BCCH and PAVE, visit www.bcch-vt.org and www.pavebennington.org.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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