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Neighbor: Michele Bedingfield

By: Melanie Ruberti

Melanie.ruberti@lagrangenews.com

LaGRANGE – The Daily News’ weekly Neighbors series features one person from LaGrange and the surrounding area. This week we sought out Michele Bedingfield, executive director of Harmony House. Michele is instrumental in bringing more awareness to domestic violence issues and helps hundreds of people in abusive relationships each year. Now, we get to know more about Michele and her life in LaGrange.

LaGrange Daily News: How long have you lived in LaGrange / Troup County?

Michele Bedingfield: 26 years.

LDN: Where did you go to school?

Bedingfield: LaGrange College.

LDN: Tell us about your family.

Bedingfield: They are amazing! Lee and I have been married for 18 years and we have 3 kids: Kyla is 16, Hamilton is 14 and Katy Beth is 12. We are active members at the Broad Street Church of Christ.  Lee and I both work full time jobs. He has been with Milliken for almost 24 years … and the kids are involved in after school activities.  Needless to say, we all stay busy but one of the things that is important to all of us is dinner time.  Most nights, regardless of the time, we eat together as a family without any cell phones and no TV.

LDN: What do you do for a living?

Bedingfield: I am the Executive Director of Harmony House Domestic Violence Shelter, Inc.

LDN: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Bedingfield: I like my job because of the team of people that I work with. I am one of 12 employees. We also have 14 board members. Together, we (Harmony House) are able to make a difference that may one day break the cycle of domestic violence. We empower individuals to make a change that could save their life and the lives of their children.

I also enjoy having community partners (law enforcement, judicial system, mental health court, school system, medical professionals, DFCS, and other non-profit agencies) that really understand the signs of domestic violence. These partners recognize it is a process for a person to ask for help and leave an abusive relationship. By working together, we can give individuals the safety, resources and knowledge to make a change … In the end, relationships are built and lives are changed because of the roles played by all those different agencies.

LDN: What are some of the challenges?

Bedingfield: One of the biggest challenges is funding for our four programs: shelter services (including crisis hotline), outreach services for non-sheltered clients, sexual assault advocacy and our teen dating violence prevention. We operate 24 hours a day and work with a staff of 12.  Last year alone, we provided services to over 650 individuals. However, due to lack of space or not enough programs and resources, we turned away or made alternate referrals for 164 individuals.

While we (Harmony House) do receive some state and federal funds, we also receive money from the community. Our Board of Directors host an annual fundraiser.  This year, the Mike Patton Auto Family we will help us as we bring back the 2nd annual Dragon Boat Race to West Point Lake on July 15th. 

The opportunity to raise the much needed funds, while bringing awareness is huge. We (Harmony House) also knows the success of this event and the money raised will be used to leverage other agencies for funds.

LDN: What other organizations or clubs are you a member of?

Bedingfield: “I am the Chairperson for Troup Family Connection and the Next Cross Road. I also serve as a board member of New Ventures, Inc., and participate on the Troup County Homeless Coalition. Harmony House is also a member of the Troup County Chamber of Commerce and a United Way Agency.”

LDN: Do you have any other hobbies or interests?

Bedingfield: “I love to travel with my family and friends. I also enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping and scuba diving.”

LDN: What do you like most about the community?

Bedingfield: “What I like most about our community is the people. In my opinion, the people in LaGrange and Troup County know how to make things happen. We have the most generous group of people that are willing to do whatever it takes to help an individual, a family, a cause or a business.”

‘Neighbors’ is a weekly series by the Daily News that highlights community members. To nominate a person to be featured call 706-884-7311 or message us on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LaGrangeDailyNews.