Mia Womenshelter

Mia Hernandez-Perez, in white, works with a group of teens at WomenShelter of Long Beach while serving as a Youth Ambassador before the pandemic.

WomenShelter of Long Beach, which provides shelter and services to victims of domestic violence, skipped its annual fund-raising gala in 2020 after Stay At Home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many nonprofits, WomenShelter is moving its event online this year instead of cancelling again. And in another first, the agency is presenting one of its youth ambassadors with a $2,500 scholarship during the gala.

"Mia came to us because her mother was a domestic violence victim," WomenShelter Executive Director Mary Ellen Mitchell said. "After receiving some services (including counseling), she became a Youth Ambassador even while she was attending college. She's a special person."

Mia Hernandez-Perez is a junior at Cal State Long Beach, majoring in economics. She said she plans to continue her education to earn a Master's degree, with the hope of working to relieve families from tensions that economic stressors may bring.

“The WomenShelter of Long Beach was the first place I learned what it meant to feel valued as a human being," Hernandez-Perez said in a release. "I first got connected to the WomenShelter as a volunteer. My mother was receiving services, but I was a very, ‘I can handle everything on my own' teenager. I refused to receive help until one day help became a need whether or not I wanted to accept it.”

Mitchell said WomenShelter will present Hernandez-Perez with a check for $2,500 to go toward her education during the gala, which takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24. A silent auction will open on March 15, ending at the gala.

Registration for the event is at aesbid.co/elp/WSLBGala21/. Tickets start at $50 for one ticket. A Leader sponsorship for $200 includes two admissions, sponsor recognition and a custom WSLB 2021 Annual Gala paint kit mailed to purchasers. There's also a Champion level for $500 that includes four admissions.

“The theme of this year’s gala is Together We Rise," Mitchell said. "Ending domestic violence is a real community issue. It can happen to anyone. It has happened to those we love and care deeply about. With everyone coming and working together to end this type of violence, we know that together, we truly can rise."

WomenShelter was started in 1977 when Dr. Virginia Corbett, a psychologist and activist, donated a 4-bedroom, 11-bed house as the first emergency shelter for victims. It has grown to include a resource center offering counseling, legal aid, health referrals and more to victims of domestic violence and their children. It now operates a 24-hour hotline and two stand-alone emergency shelters as well.

For more information about WomenShelter, go to womenshelterlb.org, or call 562-437-7233.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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