ALBANY — After a year of trials and triumphs, Cassenda Nelson will open her domestic violence nonprofit, I&A Divyne Purpose, at 1902 W. Highland Ave. on Saturday. The opening will begin at 3 p.m.
On Aug. 18, 2017, Nelson lost both her mother and aunt, Frances Nelson and Mamie Childs, respectively, to a domestic violence homicide. Exactly a year later, she says she is ready to open a nonprofit dedicated to helping distressed or disenfranchised women escape traumatic or abusive situations.
“If you’re in a situation and you know what that situation is going to bring, you would rather stay there than to jump into a different (situation),” Nelson said. “‘What if I don’t make it?’ The fear of failing, the fear of starting over and not having anyone to back you — that’s a lonely feeling. No one wants to feel lonely. What I’m doing, I’m jumping out into a sea of faith. Pushing myself on a daily basis, trying to focus and be the better person.”
I&A Divyne programs deal with financial literacy, career development, GED and college preparation, health and wellness, entrepreneurship education, life skills and etiquette, parenting classes, mental therapy, faith-based counseling and empowerment sessions.
Regarding the faith-based sessions, Nelson added, “We accept all faiths. We don’t go by any particular faith. I have people that are on the spiritual realm; I have people that are Christian. It does not matter what your belief is. You are welcome. No one will push their beliefs on you. No one.”
According to literature provided by Nelson, she founded the organization “to empower women to free themselves from the cycle of abuse” in hopes that she can help other women not suffer the fate of her mother and aunt. Because domestic violence is so prevalent in southwest Georgia, Cassenda Nelson said she wanted to create another resource for women who need a place to escape.
All things considered, she said, she’s determined not to let the opening day be overshadowed by grief.
“I don’t want it to be sad,” Nelson noted. “We’re going to call the event ‘Celebration of Life: Frances Nelson and Mamie Childs.’ It’s not sad. I don’t want to be sad anymore.”
From the time Nelson decided to open a nonprofit to now, she said she’s been making real progress.
“People are calling me. People are asking for advice on different things,” she said. “The only dilemma that I was having was trying to find a building. I can’t find a building.”
Nelson also noted that the nonprofit is looking for a grant writer, donations and volunteers.
“The path to starting this organization is a little bit more trying than I thought,” she said. “I thought that I would just jump in and be ready to go. No. There’s a lot of obstacles.”
One of the main challenges Nelson said she faced is getting people to understand her motivation.
“(I was) trying to convince people that I was here to help people,” she said. “There are so many different organizations all over the world, and sometimes people are afraid to invest in something they know little about.
“(This is) something that I organized out of hurt, pain. It’s just like ‘Where do I go from here?’ because no one knows me. But the fuel to the fire was pain. The fuel to the fire was me just trying to push forward and not get bogged down and hurt.”
For women who need business clothes for job interviews, Nelson said she plans to start Mamie’s Closet, named for her aunt. Nelson said that Mamie’s Closet has received a lot of donations.
In honor of her mother, Nelson also said she looks forward to starting the Frances Reflective Garden, where she said she plans “to give out fresh produce to the community and assist people who want to volunteer and help plant.” The garden will be open to the public.
“There were so many people saying they were going to come (help build the garden),” Nelson recalled. “Albany Community Builders didn’t come. Albany Tech didn’t come. I even got a guy that killed my grass and never showed back up. This has been hard.”
Despite the setbacks, Nelson said both programs should open some time next spring.
“We are all for the people,” Nelson said of I&A Divyne Purpose. “We are for coming together, building, loving one another, holding onto (one another). I don’t want them to ever feel alone. It’s more of a safe haven. I want them to know that they can come to me, and I will do my very best to make sure they’re OK.”
Interested persons can contact Nelson regarding donations of money or clothes at either firstname.lastname@example.org or (229) 344-2168.