By Dawn Will
360 Communities Volunteer
Most Thursdays, 8-year-old Samantha (Sammy) and 6-year-old Carson Gierke usually end up bickering about whose turn it was to bring their homemade treats to the front desk at 360 Communities Lewis House in Hastings. “You know how that goes,” said mom Sonya.
Last week’s visit was different. Not only did Sonya forget what day it was—she thought Wednesday was Thursday—but the kids were a bit somber, too. “They kept asking if this was the last time they’d do this, too” she said. That’s because they’re moving to North Carolina in early October to be closer to family.
Since moving to Hastings more than four years ago, the Gierkes have baked treats for the Thursday night Women’s Domestic Violence Support Group meetings. They made muffins, brownies, and other desserts. They also sometimes decorated the goodies for the holiday. “One time we put fireworks on a cake for 4th of July just for fun,” she said.
“The women who attended the support group always looked forward to what Sonya and her children brought,” said Ann Averill, Lewis House Hastings Supervisor. “It was always homemade and delicious.”
For Sonya, volunteering at Lewis House has special meaning. “I wanted to do something where the kids could be involved,” she said. Although their contact with those at the Lewis House was minimal, Sonya knew it was important.
Sonya was introduced to Lewis House when she started volunteering there with a group of girls from Woodbury. They’d clean the shelter and paint the walls. “We learned a lot about domestic abuse that way,” she said.
360 Communities Lewis House sexual and domestic violence shelters in Hastings and in Eagan help more than 3,000 women and children a year with shelter, counseling, advocacy and more.
Sonya said that her own mom was a victim of domestic violence as well. “I wish she’d gone to a shelter,” she said. When her own family moved to Hastings she wanted to do more volunteering at the shelter. Her husband, Jon, was very supportive of this weekly event. “When I was sick, he’d take the kids to bring the treats,” she said.
Sonya recalled that one of her daughter’s classmates stayed at the Lewis House for a time. “My daughter was happy to know that she was helping her classmate out,” she said.
It also gave the kids a chance to learn about domestic abuse and ask questions about it. “They’d ask why they were there, how long they’d stay and whether or not the kids were allowed to play outside,” she said. It led to some age-appropriate discussions about the topics.
With the move, Sonya is concerned that no one will continue to bring in treats for the group. “I’m praying that someone will pick up the ball,” she said.
Regardless what happens with that, Ann recognizes that the Gierke family has made a difference. “Sonya and her children have made a positive impact on the women and children staying at the Lewis House and they will be greatly missed!”