UM-D PR class hosts Vista Maria during Abuse Awareness Week

Times Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Becky Herman’s job is to get to the core of problems of young girls’ who suffer from abuse and neglect — and she wants community members to help her out.

As an associate manager of Volunteer Services at Vista Maria, a not-for-profit child welfare organization, Herman will speak about what the agency does at University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4901 Evergreen, in the first week of April.

During Abuse Awareness Week, April 2 to 6, students and non-students can learn through week-long activities about Vista Maria’s efforts and show their support through volunteering or donating to Vista’s mission to end domestic violence and abuse.

UM-D student Olivia Khleif is one of many organizers of Abuse Awareness Week with her classmates in the service learning class Public Relations Campaign 460.

Khleif said the week-long event is a great opportunity for students to get involved in the community.

“Vista Maria helps girls all over the country and (the week) is a great way for people to become more aware of what they do and really give back to the community,” Khleif said.

Vista Maria, 20651 W. Warren in Dearborn Heights, has been around since 1883 and helps girls 11 to 17 deal with victimization, neglect, abuse and trauma by providing them with shelter, counseling and rehabilitation.

Herman said the girls come to Vista Maria to overcome their troubles.

She added some girls deal with substance abuse issues on top of other issues because that is the only way they knew how to cope.

Abuse Awareness week, which is open to the public, kicks off from 12:30 to 1 p.m. April 2, with a flash mob event in UM-D’s University Center’s Cafe.

Khleif said several PR students and volunteers will hold posters with domestic and sexual abuse facts. They will then break out into dance with music playing in the background, while holding up the posters.

Khleif hopes the flash mob event will garner some attention.

“Hopefully it will generate (attention) through social media,” she said.

On Tuesday PR students will pass out candy throughout day near the College of Business and the College of Arts, Sciences and Letters Building on campus, with Vista Maria logos and facts attached.

Wednesday an expo will feature Herman, who will speak and provide a question-and-answer session dealing with Vista Maria. It is at 12:30 p.m. at the UM-D’s University Center.

Herman, who was a previous PR student at UM-D and intern at Vista Maria, said those in attendance can learn about volunteer opportunities through mentoring, donating monetarily or buying wish list items such as pants, socks and other essentials for the girls.

“We are always looking for volunteer groups and mentors,” she said.

On Thursday, WUMD, the university radio station, will make announcements about Vista Maria throughout the day.

One of the week’s major events will be a fundraiser from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Blackfinn, 530 S. Main St., in Royal Oak on Friday. Khleif said the fundraiser will take place in a private room at the restaurant with a select food and beverage menu with all of the proceeds going to Vista Maria. There will also be merchandise for sale.

“We’re trying to get the word out,” Khleif said. “A lot of people don’t know what Vista Maria is and they dont know what they do. (This is) for anyone who wants to help.”

For more information on donating or volunteering for Vista Maria go to

For more information about Abuse Awareness Week visit UM-D’s Facebook page.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at