Terra James is not one to stay idle for long. The Colorado native, who lives with her family in Savannah, Missouri, juggles a full-time job, raising three kids under 3 and several volunteer engagements.

One project especially close to James' heart is the annual Survivor Drive. Once a year, James collects clothing, hygiene items and monetary donations in cooperation with the YWCA. Victim advocates then take the items with them when meeting survivors of sexual and domestic abuse at the hospital as clothing is collected as evidence.

"The Survivor Drive for me has been something that I can do that really helps our community," James said.

James, a survivor of sexual assault herself, knows the difference an advocate along with a fresh set of clothing can make.

"I didn't realize they were going to take my clothes," she said. "The advocate came and brought me sweatpants and a shirt."

"It felt pretty significant to me that somebody actually cared about how I felt. And having that support there, having the clean items with brand new tags on them made me feel a little more clean because I didn't get to shower. I didn't get to clean up," James said.

Organizing the Survivor Drive has been a source of healing for James, she said. Through her volunteer work, she has met other survivors and hopes to become an advocate eventually.

"I would really like to be a victim advocate but I'm not strong enough yet to separate myself and not let someone else's trauma get to me," James said. "But every year about that time, I kind of reface my trauma, and instead of just burying it, I do something good that came out of it."

While James has turned her experience into a way to support other survivors, she said finding a way to cope is a personal experience.

"No matter what a survivor does, they're brave. Period. if you do nothing, you're still brave," James said. "But if you want to get out, the help is there, especially in our community. Reach out to the YWCA, get the free counseling services."

While the Survivor Drive for 2020 is over, James has other volunteer engagements that will keep her busy. Especially during current shutdowns because of the COVID-19 outbreak, she recommends finding and activity that benefits the community.

"Find something to do in your free time that not only benefits you but that benefits your community and especially if you have children at home, that you can teach them these are important ethical values and morals," she said.

To find help, contact the YWCA's 24-hour hotline at 816-232-1225 or 1-800-653-1477.

Jessica Kopp can be reached at jessica.kopp@newspressnow.com or you can follow her on Twitter: @NPNOWKopp

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