At an auction in France recently, someone purchased a hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte for $1,930,000. All I could think of was how much good could have been done with that money, for the world and its people, many of whom are suffering great distress. My hat is definitely not off to that buyer.

Our family started a Christmas tradition a few years ago: Designating charities to receive donations of money that would have been spent on gifts for each other. This year’s list includes, from our daughter Hilary in Washington D.C, the Mary House, a small nonprofit in the nation’s capital that shelters homeless immigrant families and gets them on the road to stable homes.

“They’ve been around for thirty years and have an excellent reputation, and I’ve worked with a few people at my restaurant who received help from Mary House when they first moved to DC,” wrote Hilary.

For the second year in a row, Linda and I designated Mount Vernon’s Food Bank as our charity. Use of the food bank has increased substantially over the last few years. Yes, we have many people with great needs, including food, right here in Maine.

One cause that Linda and I have supported for years is the Family Violence Project. The group’s fall newsletter was full of information that made us very glad we support this important program.

I read about the Clothesline Project, a grassroots movement that started 24 years ago. In the nation today, there are 500 Clothesline projects, which deliver important messages from those who suffered domestic violence, including right here in Maine. The work of the Somerset Domestic Violence Task Force was profiled and impressive. I also learned about the Augusta Rotary’s donation of books for mothers and children residing in the Kennebec Shelter. And so much more.

A request for donations, with a return envelope, was inside the newsletter, but I set it aside. And then came the Nov. 1 letter from Nathan Richards, president of the Family Violence Project’s board. As the project begins its 37th year, Richards wrote this about Kathryn.

An abuse prevention educator had recently visited her daughter’s school. Kathryn’s Journey of Hope began when her daughter said, “You know you are an abused woman, don’t you?” Kathryn’s abuser had isolated her from family and supports, and along with broken bones, he also broke her mentally, emotionally and financially.

Often, he would not drive her to pre-natal appointments. He waited until the bruises had faded so his abuse would go undetected. On the day, he decided he was going to move the family across the country, Kathryn told him she was not going. He beat her in the head and told her he was going to bury her in the backyard.

Terrified, Kathryn reached out to a friend who connected her with a domestic violence resource center. The Family Violence Project’s liaison with the Department of Health and Human Services provided support, and Kathryn entered FVP’s shelter with her daughter. Her abuser fled across the country with their son. It took nearly a month, but shelter staff, with the help of law enforcement, located the boy.

Kathryn and a Family Violence Project advocate traveled out of state to bring her son home. He was badly bruised, traumatized and undernourished. Kathryn and her children settled into FVP shelter life. Staff gathered clothing for the family, arranged transportation to appointments, provided emotional support and connected Kathryn and her children with resources. Most importantly, FVP offered the family a safe place to live and heal.

Eventually, the family entered FVP’s Supportive Housing Program. Kathryn enrolled her children in school and obtained her driver’s permit. The holiday season was just around the corner. FVP’s Holiday Sponsor Program provided the basic necessities to set up house and some toys, too.

“When you leave with nothing, pots and pans are a big deal,” Kathryn said. The family recently moved into their own apartment. Katheryn has enrolled in college, her children are thriving in school and her daughter’s art work has been displayed at the Portland Museum of Art.

Kathryn told an advocate, “I don’t think our family would be where we are today without the Family Violence Project. I went from believing my future was a box in the ground to a future of opportunity. Having our own home is a great thing. I know I am talented, intelligent and strong. I am more capable than I ever believed.”

“Generosity has brought us a great distance since 1977,” wrote Richards. “Will you continue to help the Family Violence Project serve those like Kathryn and her children?”

Linda and I did just that. And we hope you will to, by sending a Christmas donation to Family Violence Project, PO Box 304, Augusta 04332-0304. Donations also are accepted at www.familyviolenceproject.org.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.