Welcome back to our regular series: the Supporter Spotlight!
Every member of our community has a story… a reason why the work of SafeHouse Denver means so much.
This month, we turn the Spotlight inward to recognize Bertha Garza, who is celebrating 25 years as a SafeHouse staff member. Her tenure is the result of a deep personal connection to her work and to the brave survivors who inspire her every day.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
Bertha has a large family, with four children and nine grandchildren as well as three sisters. She likes to cook for family gatherings and spend time with all of them. Bertha also enjoys traveling – as an avid cruise passenger, she has taken more than 25 voyages over the last 10 years. Her favorite destination? Aruba. “I just think it’s beautiful. I love the beach, I love the warm weather… I like being in the water,” she said, before joking that maybe she should have been born somewhere else.
What brought you to SafeHouse Denver?
This month, Bertha marks her silver anniversary – 25 years – of working with the agency. However, her SafeHouse journey goes back even farther than that. As a survivor herself, Bertha was a client in the Emergency Shelter in 1988. Moved by the hopeful, healing experience she had, she volunteered from 1989 to 1997 before joining the staff in 1998. She started out as the Donations Coordinator, but her background had already prepared her for something else. Bertha’s supervisor at the time noted how well she interacted with and encouraged clients, offering her the opportunity to become an Advocate. The rest is history, but it’s also a part of SafeHouse’s present and future as this life-saving work with survivors continues. “This has a very tender place in my heart,” she reflected. “Part of what makes me really successful with clients is I know what it feels like to be afraid. I really, truly understand where they’re coming from.”
What does the mission of SafeHouse mean to you personally?
A lot can happen over 25 years, but Bertha has been grateful to see the agency and its staff grow and flourish over time, especially as services expanded from a single building to three distinct properties. Ultimately, it all comes back to the daily purpose of connecting survivors with the resources they need to find safety and stability within their circumstances. “Each client is different. I try to support them wherever they’re at, not where I want them to be,” Bertha explained. “I just really admire my clients. It’s a hard decision [to leave an abuser], and I respect all of my clients, regardless [... of] their decisions and empower them to make their own decisions.”
What do you wish more people knew about domestic violence?
Bertha believes that education and outreach are essential for the public to understand the complex reality of survivors’ situations and the unique needs they have. “I wish people would not blame the [survivor] and have a little bit more patience and understanding, and [know] that it affects all walks of life,” she pointed out. “It’s not that a [survivor] is dumb or not educated – I wish there weren’t those stereotypes.”
What advice do you have for people who want to get involved with our mission?
At first, ironically enough, Bertha never thought that volunteering would become a career. In fact, she had originally envisioned herself serving in the Army and enjoying that structure. As it turns out, she found that structure in SafeHouse’s supportive work environment and camaraderie with her colleagues, who she describes as a second family. However people may contribute, “It has to be something that you’re passionate about,” Bertha observed. “SafeHouse was instrumental in helping me break free from my situation […] so I really wanted to give back to my community.”
Beyond the opportunities to support survivors, Bertha feels like she grew right along with SafeHouse, accomplishing a lot both personally and professionally. “I’m sure I probably could have done that in another place, but it’s really nice to work somewhere that you’re passionate about,” she stated. Her longevity has been a valuable asset, because having a familiar face makes it easy for previous clients to refer new ones to Bertha, because they know she’s still around and still helping. “This has been so much a part of my life, I don’t even know how I would function without it. I really like working with people,” Bertha said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, the first step to access our services is calling our 24-Hour Crisis & Information Line at 303-318-9989. Talk with a passionate, dedicated Advocate today to find support and resources that will empower your journey of hope and healing.