WOW says firework sales vital

Cullen Abshire tired quickly in the 90-degree morning heat but continued to lift heavy boxes into his truck early Friday.

Abshire, of Baton Rouge, and other volunteers arrived early at Gulf Coast fireworks in Denham Springs to tote 89 large boxes of fireworks to the Women Outreaching Women’s climate-controlled fireworks stand.

“I’m donating my time for a good cause,” Abshire said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

The nonprofit organization, which provides a shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence, sells fireworks for the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. All proceeds go to operating the shelter, which is funded through grants and donations and operates on a $150,000 annual budget, Executive Director Judi Adams said.

The fireworks sales are their biggest annual fundraiser, and the organization always needs volunteers, including youth, to run the fireworks stand, Adams said.

“This is a great place for youth to volunteer and learn retail experience of pricing, stocking, cashiering, marketing and more,” Adams said.

Lisa Betancourt, of Denham Springs, was also unpacking boxes from a truck that had arrived at WOW.

“I just have a heart for people and this organization is close to home,” Bentancourt said.

On Monday, more volunteers arrived to unpack, price and display the items, which include everything from bottle rockets and sparklers to Roman candles and smoke balls.

“Fourth of July is geared more toward children,” Adams said as she pointed to some of the hottest sellers.

“We have something for every age,” Adams said.

Adams said she’s hoping for bountiful sales this Fourth of July season but said the amount of money they raise depends on the weather and on what day the holiday falls.

This year, the holiday is on a Thursday.

WOW opened the stand in 2002, and raises an average of $10,000 a year from fireworks sales, Adams said.

The money is desperately needed because the cost of operating the shelter rises each year, she said.

The organization was forced to close the shelter in January 2010 because of a lack of funds, but reopened it in July 2010 thanks to the generosity of local residents like John Holmes, who owns Holmes Building Materials.

Back then, WOW operated two shelters. Today, the organization only has enough money to operate one, which can accommodate nine women and children, a small percentage of those who need a safe place to go when they are faced with domestic violence, she said.

“Before (the other shelter closed), we could accommodate 18,” she said.

Their mission of making money for the shelter isn’t their only goal, Adams said. Those who visit the fireworks building can learn more about the organization’s mission, and firework safety.

“We need to teach people more about awareness,” Housing coordinator Andy DeShazer said. “What the base problem is and what domestic violence is. That’s what’s going to slow or end it is to educate people about it.”

The organization tries to achieve this goal by providing support through trained advocates, staff and volunteers for women who are victims of family violence.

According to WOW, Louisiana is first in the nation for domestic violence. Every 24 hours, seven women die from this abuse nationally.

To try to end the cycle of abuse, WOW offers presentations and training to local organizations, churches, businesses, schools and local officials on how to recognize domestic violence, where to seek help, and what they can do to prevent further abuse to women and children.