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Pee Dee Coalition dedicates Iyana’s Playground

Pee Dee Coalition dedicates Iyana’s Playground
Thursday, October 26, brought community members, business owners, elected officials, domestic violence advocates, friends and relatives of Ella and Iyana Lowery to the New Beginnings Transitional Shelter in Wallace for “An Evening Among the Oaks,”  sponsored by Priority One Home Healthcare.
The occasion was twofold: the opening of the facility, which offers up to 18 months of shelter, support and life skills education to women and their children who have left abusive homes, and the dedication of “Iyana’s Playground” in memory of eight-year-old Iyana Lowery and her mother, Ella, who were murdered last May in Bennettsville.
Phase one of the playground renovation is complete and includes a fountain in honor of Iyana. With family members gathered on benches nearby, friends provided music and blessings for the site developed through many hours of volunteer labor led by Dave Webb and Jim McClain with the assistance of Lowe’s in Laurinburg. 
“Domestic violence is a beast,” said S.C. Rep. Pat Henegan. “Domestic violence transforms the very ties of family that should be our strength, into terrible chains of oppression,” she said, calling on all present to bring increased awareness to the issues of interpersonal violence. 
Recognizing the transformation possible for survivors staying at New Beginnings, Henegan said, “This house is more than a shelter. It is a safe haven, a place of refuge where they (survivors and their children) can put the shattered pieces of their lives back together again.”
New Beginnings Director Janice Hamlin emphasized that the evening was designed to celebrate life. 
“Iyana’s brother asked specifically for Legos to be part of this playground. Walmart Bennettsville and this community worked with staff to make that happen,” she said. “It is community involvement that created Pee Dee Coalition, and it is the efforts of individuals, organizations, businesses and the faith community that continue to create the opportunity for survivors of domestic violence to thrive.”
As a United Way supported organization, Pee Dee Coalition offers crisis intervention, recovery, offender re-education and prevention programs. PDC’s executive director, Ellen Hamilton, stressed the need for everyone to help change the conversation about domestic violence using a trauma-informed approach which shifts from asking “Why?”  or “What’s wrong with you?” to asking both victims and offenders, “What happened to you?” 
Saying “education is freedom,” Wendy Woods of Northeastern Technical College presented New Beginnings with two $250 scholarships for residents. PDC recognized long-time supporters Lie Steele and her mother, Ann Gibbs, whose contribution enabled the Coalition to satisfy the loan on the home and property on Hickson Road that serves as the transitional shelter and home to Iyana’s Playground.  
For information on how to volunteer or contribute to New Beginnings contact Christie Moore at (843) 921-3167 or to support Pee Dee Coalition as a whole visit www.peedeecoalition.org.
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