Women’s Refuge fetes 20 years of ‘hope, opportunity’

The Women’s Refuge of Vero Beach celebrated two decades of assisting women in crisis, recently hosting a gathering of more than 250 guests at its 20th Year Anniversary Gala at First Church of God.

The hall was filled with past and present residents, board members, staff and donors who had come to mark the milestone anniversary. Donna and Ted Robart founded the Women’s Refuge of Vero Beach, “a place of hope and opportunity for the wounded,” to assist women coping with emotional, mental and spiritual difficulties.

Members of the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra performed as guests renewed friendships, bid on silent-auction items and dined on Cajun cuisine prepared by Donna Lee Robart’s son, Rich Lee, an executive chef in New Orleans. Later he joined Robart’s daughters, MaryAnn Rutter, Alice Guthman and Linda May, as they presented a heartfelt selection of songs.

Keynote speaker Dr. Wayne Creelman, medical director at Vero’s Center for Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, noted that the refuge “is a real sanctuary where people can start over, find their purpose and true identity. As a psychiatrist and an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church, I find their biblical counseling to be unique in the field of psychotherapy and highly successful.”

During a brief video presentation, several residents shared the hardships they have faced; from online prostitution and bad relationships to rape, co-dependency and feelings of despair. After receiving counseling at the refuge, the women said they now felt they could move forward.

Mary Lumadue, a former resident, took the stage and gave an honest and vulnerable testimonial, sharing her journey from hopelessness to a newfound joy in life.

As the evening came to an end, Robart announced that she was stepping down as the executive director and passing the torch to Diane Ludwig, currently their director of administration.

“The Women’s Refuge is a ministry that provides a place for those who are emotionally, mentally and spiritually wounded; a sanctuary for people who are serious about getting well,” said Ludwig.

For more information, visit womensrefugevb.org.    

Photos by: Denise Ritchie

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