Butterflies, which are known for their transformation, provided a meaningful symbol recently for a domestic violence awareness fundraiser in Merced.
“It was a perfect match,” said artist and teacher Monika Modest. “The butterfly is a symbol of strength and also transformation, the ability to fly and it’s beautiful.”
Modest developed an eight-week effort that got locals from all walks of life to donate $10 to glaze a clay butterfly. She exceeded her goal of 1,000 butterflies (by two), which translates to more than $10,000 for the Valley Crisis Center, which advocates locally for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The butterflies were on display the past few weeks at the Merced Civic Center until a celebration of the project’s success on Thursday.
She said groups of classmates, neighbors, friends and strangers met at Merced College, south Merced homes, Merced Mall, Los Banos Community Center and Coffee Bandits, among other places, to decorate the butterfly-shaped pieces of clay.
Modest, 57, is originally from Switzerland, and four years ago moved to Merced from Pennsylvania. She volunteers to teach art at the Wellness Center, a facility designed to promote mental health recovery. Modest said the clients at the Wellness Center wanted to develop a fundraiser for a worthy cause, and she eventually decided on Valley Crisis Center.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the clients at the Wellness Center,” she said.
October also happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To top it all off, Valley Crisis Center uses a story about a butterfly in some of its classes. In the story, a passer-by helps a caterpillar to develop the skills to bloom into a butterfly, rather than doing the work for the insect.
Modest said beyond the fundraising, the project brought people together. Those people also got some art lessons, she said, and many made the clay creature into a gift for a loved one. Students at Yosemite High School made nearly half of the butterflies, she said, and a handful of people covered the $10 donations for seniors, students, residents of the homeless shelter and others.
Modest said she was thankful for all the people who came together for the cause. “It’s one thing to have an idea and a dream,” she said, “but you need people to realize dreams.”
Funding at the Valley Crisis Center has been an issue this year. The Los Banos office’s hours of service fell from three to two days per week.
Valley Crisis Center saw another change this year. As of July1, the center is under the umbrella of Alliance for Community Transformations, which used to be called Mountain Crisis Center.
Denise Conway, the administrative director for Alliance, said the state and federal funds that Valley Crisis depends on for its primary funding does not cover every service offered. Conway said the $10,000 could cover special items such as a plane ticket to move a victim closer to family, or pay for medication or eyeglasses that had to be abandoned. Victims often leave their homes in a hurry.
“They’re literally walking out the door with the clothes on their back,” she said.
From July 2012 through June 2013, Conway said, an estimated 600 people sought services from Valley Crisis in Merced and Los Banos. She said some may have received one service, while others may have needed many. Conway said she hopes each butterfly will be a reminder to their makers of their support of the victims that have been given a second chance by the center. She said the effort was a success.
“We just didn’t anticipate that a relatively simple idea would just take off like it has,” she said. “It’s really been embraced by the community.”
Modest has other community-based art on display in the tile murals in Bob Hart Square, Rahilly Park and along G Street at the underpass.
The Merced office of Valley Crisis Center is located at 1960 P St. The Valley Crisis Center can be found in Los Banos in the Police Annex, 545 J St.
Valley Crisis has served Merced since 2009. The advocacy group filled the hole left in 2008 by A Woman’s Place, which closed its Merced and Los Banos offices amid financial problems.
For more on Valley Crisis Center, call (209) 725-7900. The center also offers a 24-hour crisis hotline at (209) 722-4357.