BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Outraged at the Bay St. Louis council for voting to cut $2,500 allocated to the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence, concerned resident Rhonda Gamble decided to do something about it.
"Twenty-five hundred dollars isn't a drop in the bucket for this council or this budget," Gamble said.
She gathered dozens of fellow residents to stand up in the budget hearing in support of the center.
"We have as a community an obligation and the city has an obligation to provide safety to residents," Gamble said.
Showing the council just how vital the center is to the city, the crowd held up numbers one through 164. Each number represented a Bay St. Louis victim helped by the center last year.
Police Chief Mike De Nardo told the council cutting the money will not save the city a dime.
"If you don't fund them, I'd ask you to increase my budget," De Nardo said, "because we are going to be dealing with a lot more aggravated assault and domestic violence."
To keep the center open, the state requires the local community to fund 25-percent of the operation costs. That amounts to around $425,000.
A resident stood up and said, "This is not the place to cut the budget."
Councilwoman Wendy McDonald agreed.
"You could die in this situation," McDonald said. "A lot of things are nice to have and good to have, but this is a must have. These women in this environment are trapped."
McDonald said she appreciated the community coming to the meeting to help the council make decisions.
"I want to live in a city that supports protection for women in violent situations and children," McDonald said.
After hearing from concerned residents, council members had a change of heart and voted unanimously to reverse the decision and give $2,500 to the center for nonviolence.
Lisa Wilbourn with the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence said, "It was a group of concerned women who started the center back in the late 70s, and it's groups like these that keep us going."
Citizens and leaders of Bay St. Louis hope other cities will follow their lead and continue to fund the center even when the budget is tight.