A cosmetology student at the Madison Adult Career Center gives a manicure during the center's "night of pampering" for women and children residing at The Domestic Violence Shelter.

MADISON TOWNSHIP -- Kelly Clements strolled around the classroom in a red-and-white, Santa-themed dress, a little boy with brown eyes and curly hair propped on her hip. 

Her classroom, normally reserved for adult medical assisting students, was decorated with Christmas stockings. A group of young children sat enraptured as another volunteer read them "The Night Before Christmas." Behind them were tables covered with holiday crafts, half-eaten cookies and cups of hot cocoa.

Clements and her co-workers at the Madison Adult Career Center wanted to create a little holiday magic for someone in need, so they decided to host a "night of pampering" for residents of The Domestic Violence Shelter.

Staff from the medical assisting program entertained the children with crafts and a visit from Santa. Down the hall, women residing at the shelter got a free haircut, hairstyle or manicure from students in MACC's cosmetology program.

“We needed this," said Maria*, a domestic-violence survivor. "The woman in the shelter needed something nice. It's picking up all of our spirits.”

Sarah Metzger, an advocate at the Domestic Violence Shelter, said she was grateful for MACC's efforts to treat the women and children to something special.

"Every woman loves to be pampered and feel special," she said. "When you're going through a tough time in your life, sometimes just the little things of getting your hair done, getting your manicure can really boost your spirits and make you feel better about yourself.

"We often say kids are silent witnesses to domestic violence," she added. "Everyone's safety is number one. That's our biggest priority. But we still got to do things to make this time of year special for them and make them realize how important and special they are."

Jane* attended the event with her small children in tow. When Santa arrived, each one charged toward him, arms open for a hug.

"This is very nice," Jane said. "It's something good for the kids. Something good for us. We get to get out the house, take our mind off other things."

Desiree Skaggs, a student in the advanced cosmetology program, said she enjoyed meeting and talking with the women.

"It's honestly a great opportunity to help people out," Skaggs said. "I love taking care of people. It was nice seeing everyone happy, smiling."

Robyn McNulty, a student advocate and community health worker at MACC, said this isn't the first time the school has partnered with the shelter. Employees from the shelter come in and speak to every class, regardless of which technology they study, about the warning signs of domestic violence or abuse.

"We have outside sources come in to educate our students because we're not only teaching them their technology; we're also teaching them how to better serve the community once they leave here," she said.

Since its founding in 1979, the shelter has moved from providing primarily emergency shelter to becoming a fully functioning agency that provides a full range of services to survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. 

Services include emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis line, intensive case management, support groups, legal advocacy, 24-hour hospital advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, community awareness and education as well as an active volunteer program.

Community members can help by volunteering or donating items like clothing, toiletries, food and gift cards to purchase Christmas gifts for the children living in the shelter.

“Domestic violence happens in every community. There's no community or demographic that's immune from it," Metzger said. "If you are going through domestic violence, you are not alone. You don't have to deal with it alone."

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse, you can call The Domestic Violence Shelter's 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-931-7233.

"You can get connected with an advocate so you can get that help," Metzger added. "Because it is happening in our community and we don't want anyone to have to face it alone.”

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie@richlandsource.com