VALDOSTA -- The South Georgia Medical Center Volunteer Auxiliary is doing its part by supporting The Haven's Rape Crisis Center. At noon Monday, five women dressed in pink vests arrived at the shelter for battered women and children bearing the first Safe Package bags for sexual assault victims.

Auxiliary President Gelana Goddard, Brenda Reinke, Ellie Bridges, President-elect Anne Harris and Agnes Hagin brought 18 bags containing different toiletries, undergarments, flip-flops, shorts and shirts, Goddard said.

Local businesses donated the items, and more are expected. SGMC volunteers anticipate providing anywhere from 60-100 bags for the Rape Crisis Center in the future. There is a possibility that the project may become a permanent one, Goddard said.

"We hope that the rape numbers are low, but if they need 100, then we're going to provide 100," Goddard said.

Goddard got the idea for the project during a statewide Auxiliary convention in Augusta last year. She heard that another Auxiliary was doing it, she said. "They brought to my attention the plight of the rape victims, and I approached my Auxiliary and told them about the project." Goddard said. "They felt it was very worthwhile for us to follow this and make this our community project for the year."

The SGMC volunteer auxiliary has participated in other projects, but this is its first time working with the Rape Crisis Program, Goddard said. When they first thought about providing bags for the rape victims, they were going to provide a pair of shorts and a shirt. However, as they investigated what should be provided, they discovered the victims needed much more.

"It's something they can leave the hospital with and not be any further conspicuous," Goddard said. "They had to leave in hospital gowns and blankets because all their clothing is confiscated, even down to their shoes as evidence."

Ellie Bridges has been with the Auxiliary for about 18 months. She had worked in a daycare center for about nine years. When it closed, she became a certified nurse's assistant and worked with the elderly. The project gives her another opportunity to help her community by assisting rape victims.

"I am just glad to help," Bridges said. "I just want to help, anything I do."

The first time bags were provided for victims was in 2000, and it was a community effort where private citizens and some bigger businesses donated to it, Karen Mortensen, Rape Crisis coordinator, said. In addition, sororities from Valdosta State University and an advisory committee have helped provide clothing. During the past two years, about 120 bags have been donated. The auxiliary will continue to refill the bags when they are needed.

Mortensen said when Goddard contacted her in May about providing the bags for the victims, there were no bags left.

"We had nothing," Mortensen said. "It was a complete coincidence that she called me and she came to meet with me and talk to me about it," Mortensen said. "These ladies are so wonderful. They took this project and just ran with it with very little assistance from us -- leaving us to work with the victims."

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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