A Better Way: 765-747-9107
24-Hour Crisis Line: 765-288-4357
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Editor’s note: Maria's real name has been withheld to protect her identity.
“My life is in danger. My husband wants to kill me. He said he’s going to kill me,” she told the cab driver on the other side of the phone. Her scalp was still sore as a reminder.
“So when you come, have your doors open because I’m going to be filling them up.”
When the cab driver pulled up, he did just as she said.
He pulled up to the curb. He opened all of the doors. He waited.
She grabbed her two daughters’ hands and fastened them in the cab first. Then, she returned to the house and frantically pulled together clothes, some steaks from the freezer and some candies she had hidden before, she too, got into the cab and told the driver to go.
This is how Maria remembers the day she arrived at A Better Way in Muncie, which, in the mid ‘80s, was known as the Family Services of Delaware County and operated out of two buildings.
Since 1977, A Better Way has served the Muncie community as a crisis shelter and safe haven for those who need a place to stay.
Now, operating out of a home with a capacity of 25 clients, the organization offers various services for every crisis, such as suicide and homelessness, not just domestic violence like in Maria’s case.
Teresa Clemmons, executive director of A Better Way, said the services provided show what A Better Way is all about: helping.
“To me, A Better Way means there’s a better way to live, and we can help you get there,” Clemmons said. “We have the suicide line, we have the telecare program, we do the prevention programing – all those things are to help people either get through the crisis they’re experiencing or prevent them from ever experiencing them in the first place.”
A Better Way has an extensive staff that includes counselors and volunteers.
Tammy Underwood, the volunteer coordinator at A Better Way, said one has to have a certain calling to want to work in the nonprofit field.
“There was a time when I walked into the shelter, and there was a young mom with a baby on her hip,” Underwood said, pausing to compose herself.
“She had two black eyes, and I went back upstairs and started to cry. A couple of my coworkers comforted me, and they explained to me that she was doing the right thing. She was here, and she was getting help, and that did make me feel better. But to know somebody could just punch somebody in the face like that, a mother, that just really broke my heart.”
Other stories from the shelter include one woman’s abuser took a hammer and smashed all of her toes, breaking every one, telling her to think again if she tried to run.
Another went all the way as to hire a hitman to murder his wife when she was coming back for her things.
It’s examples like this and the above average rate of poverty in Muncie, which according to the United States Census Bureau is more than double the state’s poverty rate, that makes A Better Way “crucial to a community like Muncie,” Clemmons said.
“There is so much violence,” Clemmons said. “That’s not just in Muncie. That’s across the board, but Muncie specifically has a population that has a very large amount of poverty. This means people need resources if they’re in that kind of situation.”
Clemmons also said many victims have problems that stem from this poverty, such as unemployment or lack of education, forcing them to rely on their abuser and making them more vulnerable.
Many organizations in Muncie, such as the YWCA, Second Harvest Food Bank and Ball State University, believe A Better Way is a crucial resource and have partnered with them to provide donations and volunteers.
“It really is amazing that the community supports A Better Way so much,” Underwood said. “When I take people on a tour of A Better Way, I just feel really proud to say, ‘Everything you see in this room has been donated by people in our community.’ Pajamas, diapers, food. Just basic necessities people need when they’re at a shelter.”
Underwood also said it’s organizations like A Better Way, and the people who work there, that give hope.
“Our communities need a lot of support and love, and someone has to step up to do that,” Underwood said. “When I see the staff at A Better Way and all the hard work they do, it’s really inspiring. It’s given me hope that when people care that much, I think there is hope for a better world.”
Maria, with the help of A Better Way, received counseling and slowly began to heal. Her husband was never able to find her during her time there.
After a few weeks at A Better Way, she moved out of state with her two daughters to start anew. She served her husband divorce papers.
Eventually, Maria did return to Muncie. She volunteered at A Better Way for five years and started her own ministry thanks to everything A Better Way gave her those years before.
“It humbled me, and it made me listen to other people’s situation and predicaments,” Maria said. “It made me love on people more. That’s what people don’t do. And you don’t always have to listen with your ears, you can listen with your eyes and see why they’re acting the way they are.
As of today, Maria has over 20 spiritual daughters — women she has helped work through crisis through her ministry and created strong connections with — who she has helped mentor from A Better Way. In most cases, she picked the young women up and took them to church or similar social outings to speak privately and show them that miracles do happen.
“You really don’t understand,” she said, dabbing her eyes of the tears. “[A Better Way] really saved my life. I will never forget that.”