Casey Blake, cblake@citizen-times.com 6:40 p.m. EDT August 23, 2014

CITIZEN-TIMES

ASHEVILLE – For 10 years now, the Genesis Alliance has had lunch so other women can have dreams.

A small, volunteer-driven nonprofit that began as a casual conversation between friends around a kitchen table, the Genesis Alliance has quietly worked alongside some of the area’s most influential nonprofits fighting domestic violence and child abuse to fund scholarships and special projects helping women and children get back on their feet.

The Genesis Alliance will hold its 11th Annual Luncheon and Auction Sept. 18.

Author Susan Reinhardt will be the emcee at the event — the organization’s major annual fundraiser, which usually draws close to 300 people.

This year’s beneficiary is The Steadfast House and Transformation Village of Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries. Mary Sczudlo, director of ABCCM’s homeless services and Steadfast House, will be the keynote speaker.

The Genesis Alliance was born in 2004 in the kitchen of attorney Sidney Powell, who mentioned to a few girlfriends that there didn’t seem to be much of a presence in Asheville for advocacy around domestic violence.

“We all just agreed that there wasn’t enough being done,” said Cathy Steinback, secretary of The Genesis Alliance. “We were looking at Helpmate and all these other amazing organizations who just didn’t seem to have enough people in their corner.”

Their first year raised $25,000 for Helpmate, Buncombe’s local domestic violence agency.

Over the next 10, they would raise more than $375,000 to raise community awareness of the pervasiveness and effects of violence against women and children, and to empower survivors to create and establish healthy and productive lives.

The alliance assists other nonprofits that help women and children whose lives have been affected by domestic violence. They also fund requests from various nonprofits during the year to assist projects within the scope of its mission.

In 2012, The Genesis Alliance started a scholarship fund to provide higher education for victims of domestic violence. Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College already had a scholarship fund for single parents (The Lavender Fund), but The Genesis Alliance wanted to take that a step further.

Dreama Davis was the first recipient of a Genesis Alliance scholarship. Davis graduated from North Carolina A & T, summa cum laude, with a bachelor of science in nursing.

Scholarships like these are huge, Sczudlo said, especially for women fleeing domestic violence, many of whom end up homeless because they have no independent income or work skills.

“There is this mistaken perception about homelessness, that these are people who just don’t want to work,” said Sczudlo. “The majority of the people we serve are working and absolutely want to work, but so many don’t have the skills to do more than a minimum wage job.”

Sczudlo said sometimes the biggest challenge is getting the women they serve to believe in themselves.

“Coming from abusive relationships and just incredibly difficult circumstances, it can be a battle just to make them believe they deserve it, or can do it,” Sczudlo said. “But so many of these women are just exceptionally bright.”

Last year, one woman who received a Genesis Alliance scholarship applied to community college, unsure if she would even get in, and scored in the 91st percentile.

“Getting the education they need through scholarships like the Genesis Alliance — it’s just huge,” she said.

“It changes everything for these women, and it’s not enough just to give them shelter. This gives them a future.”

IF YOU GO

What: Genesis Alliance 11th Annual Luncheon and Auction

When: 11 a.m – 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18

Where: Asheville Renaissance Hotel, 31 Woodfin Street.

Tickets: Individual tickets are $75, table sponsorships of various levels are available, and silent auction donations are welcome.

More: Visit www.genesisalliance.org or call 274-4064 to join or learn more about the Genesis Alliance, download scholarship application or make a donation.