Domestic violence advocacy group comes to Auburn

Having children changes a person's world in ways most people can't ever envision. For Keith Beach, his daughter continues to change his life.

Having children changes a person’s world in ways most people can’t ever envision.

For Keith Beach, his daughter continues to change his life.

When Jennifer Beach was a junior at Redmond High, she wrote a poem called “Bruised Inside & Out.”

At 16, Jennifer encountered a 10-year-old girl who showed signs of physical abuse, and after trying to help the girl out and being rebuffed, was inspired to write the poem from the little girl’s perspective.

Jennifer turned it in as a final project in her honors English class, but her parents didn’t know she had written it. It was only after Jennifer’s death in a car accident on the last day of school in 1991 that Keith Beach discovered the poem.

Now, the Covington resident uses the poem to help survivors cope, abusers learn about the pain they cause and to work toward ending child abuse and neglect. But, it has also inspired him to do so much more than raise awareness.

Keith Beach formed the Jennifer Beach Foundation in 2001 in honor of his daughter. The idea at the time was to share her poem with the Eastside Domestic Violence Program to further that organization’s funding efforts.

In 2005, Beach retired from the corporate world to run the foundation full time, and from there began to expand the mission of the non-profit organization.

It began with a connection to Victoria Throm and the Covington Domestic Violence Task Force.

“We started partnering with some of the other organizations in a variety of programs,” Beach said. “As a result of that, we started doing more and more direct service.”

The mission in 2011 for the foundation is to provide education, advocacy and assistance to the community related to child abuse and domestic violence.

Beach explained this year will likely see a change to the name of the non-profit because the word “foundation” can be confusing.

“Our mission has changed,” he said. “People think we’re funders and not service providers. Part of mission now that we have a facility is to raise our image again.”

And to inform those in need of services in King County that the foundation is a direct service provider.

New place to serve

As part of the expanded role the foundation has taken, Beach said, he moved it from a home office at his residence in Covington to a building owned by Grace Community Church.

Having the Auburn facility is significant, in that it has opened the doors to volunteers as well as potential funding for additional expansion.

“One of the biggest challenges I have now is to raise funds to have paid staff,” Beach said. “We’ve never had paid staff. Ever.”

Now that the foundation has its own home services also can expand.

And that happened due to the partnership with Grace Community Church, where the foundation had offered its financial literacy class, so it just made sense to Beach to seek the church leaders out when he was in search of a site for an office.

“I spoke with our board members and we spent a lot of time trying to see how we could partner with the church to be an extension of what they do,” Beach said. “We also had unbelievable support from Lowe’s. They helped us with materials, and they sent employees over to help us (with renovation) that were on the clock. With the help of See’s Foundation, they gave us $8,000, and with the help of Lowe’s, we have what we have now.”

Beach described what the foundation does now as “direct service advocacy.”

“The model for advocates is that we provide information to our clients so that they can make decisions based on what they feel is best for them,” he said. “The client is the best person to make those decisions, and we try to make sure they have good information to base those decisions on.”

The foundation offers financial assistance to domestic violence survivors to help pay for things like a night or three in a motel after leaving their abusers. A few nights in a motel can make it easier to find long term shelter.

Volunteers with JBF also help survivors develop personalized safety plans so they can leave knowing where they’ll go once they’re out. Often survivors leave while in crisis without any plan for the next step, Beach added.

The foundation can also connect survivors with other resources out there.

When Beach first connected with Throm and the Covington Domestic Violence Task Force the partnership led to a connection with the South King County YWCA from which was born “Hope and Power,” a financial literacy class for survivors.

“Historically for us, the advocacy I’ve done has been with clients enrolled in one of our programs,” Beach said. “Because we have a place now and because people are referring people to us, it becomes a lot more of our work effort. I’m still adjusting to that.”

Kids Club working

In addition to the financial literacy class, the foundation offered a Kids Club program last year, something that lasted 10 weeks and involved moms along with their children who had grown up in an environment of domestic violence.

“If someone doesn’t step in and show them there are other ways to do things when they get angry or frustrated, they will repeat that model,” Beach said. “It was modeled after our Hope and Power program. We hope to have another before the year is out.”

Kids Club is important because studies show children raised in that environment but who weren’t abused often end up with the same social problems as kids who have been directly abused.

“There are a lot of kids who grow up in that and just get through it,” Beach said. “This goes back to trying to break that cycle of violence.”

In his new office building there is a conference room with tables. That’s the perfect space for classes and programs. There’s also space for private meetings, a kitchen, a bathroom with a changing table for moms with little ones still in diapers.

Possibly the crown jewel of the once dilapidated building is the children’s room. It’s filled with books and toys, a set of old school house desks, a small theater area with a TV along with a collection of favorite cartoons and kids movies.

And then there’s the mural wall Maple Valley resident Diane Gamlem painted with the help of her husband, Mick, who built interactive elements into the wall.

It’s got doors and windows, things to open, with surprises behind each while the interactive elements protect the paint with plexiglass.

“We thought it would be really fun if the kids could play with the wall and not just look at it,” Diane Gamlem said.

Gamlem explained that work began on the mural in November over the course of two weekends and the couple returned to it two months ago.

Gamlem said she met Beach while she was volunteering with the Covington DVTF.

“My husband and I do a lot of other volunteer work with the domestic violence (advocacy) community,” she said. “It’s definitely a labor of love. I was just thrilled someone was going to let me paint on the wall.”

Beach said Gamlem just wanted to help. He showed her some murals at Grace Community Church and she just went with it from there.

City pitching in

The foundation has reached out beyond the church, as well, to form partnerships with the City of Auburn now that it has its offices there. That can only grow the longer the offices are in Auburn, Beach said.

This little non-profit that began nearly a decade ago to distribute a poem of a teenage girl has grown well beyond what Beach ever envisioned. To this day his daughter is still changing his life.

“Did I ever have an idea that I would learn to be as tolerant and patient and non-judgmental to help the clients that we have now,” Beach said. “Did I ever think that I would be able to stay kind of connected to Jennifer in this way?

“She was a kind, caring person and I’ve always had it in the back of my head that she would be doing something like this. I’m grateful for that in a way that I can’t express in words.”


To learn more

Jennifer Beach Foundation: 253-833-5366;;