Sisters of Sojourn Celebrates 20 Years of Fundraising

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Sisters of Sojourn, founded by Palisadian Suzanne Lowe to raise funds to support domestic violence services, is celebrating its 20th anniversary—which means gearing up for three events.

“We started the group about 20 years ago in 2000,” Lowe explained.

The Upper Marquez Knolls resident, who is married to a born and raised Palisadian, shared that the catalyst for founding Sisters of Sojourn was that, through a Santa Monica-based apparel manufacturing company, she wanted to give excess inventory to a local women’s charity, which became Sojourn.

Founded in 1977, Sojourn is a project of The People Concern, which deals with an array of issues throughout Los Angeles, with a focus on homelessness. Sojourn is the domestic violence component, which works with a network of shelters throughout Southern California to provide housing and services for victims of domestic violence.

“We were constantly sending them inventory and they kept saying they were very appreciative,” Lowe recalled.

But Lowe wanted to do more—and she saw that, though Sojourn had fundraising organizations, there was an opportunity to create a group of people on the Westside between the ages of 25 and 35 who would be interested in supporting the cause.

One of the shelters is Adams House, which “provides survivors of domestic violence with shelter, legal advocacy, education, and service-enriched programs, enabling them to regroup, rebuild and reestablish their esteem and lives following their trauma,” according to The People Concern website.

Adams House is a four-unit building that has about 10 rooms and can house 20 to 25 people. Rooms are able to configure to house families, so women are able to bring children.

Many other shelters offer a place to stay for up to six weeks, but because Adams House is largely privately funded, there are less restrictions and those who are sheltered there can receive up to six months of safe housing.

“It’s open to men and women and adult children,” Gina Bettinsoli, who helps run Sisters of Sojourn, explained.

Lowe shared that in the particularly egregious cases, “they found, historically, that women and their children would go back to their batterers because they weren’t prepared to launch into the world.” This precipitated a need for a second-state shelter for the worst cases.

Since its inception, Sisters of Sojourn, with 40 mostly Palisadian members, has raised more than $1.5 million for Adams House—which covers about one-third to one-half of the budget.

“We had our first event at basically a night club in Santa Monica and it was a very simply affair,” Lowe shared. “We had a reggae band and invited just people we know, and that night, we raised $25,000 for the cause.”

This year, Sisters of Sojourn will host the benefit on Friday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at Playa Studios in Culver City. Festivities will include dinner, a silent auction and dancing to Super Diamond—a Neil Diamond tribute band.

“We’ve had great support from community organizations,” Bettinsoli added. “That’s part of what makes the event so fun. As we’ve gotten older, our kids, they were in preschool and now they’re in college, you may not be able to see people on a daily or weekly basis … you’re getting to see folks you’ve known for 20 years and still have a really great time with.”

In addition to the benefit, Sisters of Sojourn is also preparing for two events in the Palisades.

On Saturday, February 8, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Carbon 38 in Palisades Village is hosting an all-day event where a portion of sales will go back to Sisters of Sojourn. There will also be a free self-defense at 10 a.m.

Two weeks later, on February 23 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Swarthmore Room, there will be a teen dating violence workshop to educate those 13 to 18 on what it means to have a healthy relationship and how to recognize signs of abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial and digital.

To purchase tickets for the gala, visit sos2020.givesmart.com. To RSVP for the self-defense workshop, email rsvp@carbon38.com; sistersofsojourn90272@gmail.com for the teen dating workshop.