When Chelsie Birks volunteered with United Way at Mosaic Family Services, it wasn’t her first time being at the shelter. The last time she was at Mosaic years ago, she was trying to escape an abusive relationship.

Chelsie says that people are often surprised that she was the victim of family violence. As a successful, confident woman who can command the attention of a room, she doesn’t fit the stereotypical view of an abused woman. Chelsie is quick to remind them that domestic violence affects all kinds of women and manifests itself differently.

For Chelsie, the abuse started out as verbal and emotional. She gives an example of the mind games that made her question everything about herself. She explains, “Let’s say you’re wearing a pink dress. Your spouse says, ‘You know, you’re such a beautiful woman, and because I care about you, you should know that pink is not a good color on you. I’m just looking out for you because I care.’” Chelsie explains that eventually every decision results in harsher and harsher criticism, causing self-doubt, and then even more reprimands. The vicious cycle often amps up over time, and violence becomes routine.

When Chelsie finally summoned the courage to leave, she approached Mosaic Family Services for assistance. Unfortunately, the shelter had a waiting list – a sad reminder that there are far too many women who need shelter services. Chelsie did find another shelter who had an open bed, and recalls the feeling of laying down her head and feeling safe and secure for the first time in ten years: “I finally felt like I could exhale.”

Since that time, she’s done far more than exhale. After a year of intense counseling and support services by wonderful Dallas nonprofits like Mosaic Family services, Chelsie wanted to pursue her dream of being a makeup artist – freed from the shackles that had inhibited her personal success. Chelsie’s skill with a makeup brush has taken her all over the United States, and behind the scenes of some of the most coveted events. She has landed work on numerous film sets, Emmy-nominated television, and has worked with numerous A-list celebrities. Her work has graced the covers of major magazines and CD covers for award-winning recording artists. Chelsie has just launched a website devoted to connecting and supporting women.

And on May 13, she returned to Mosaic Family Services – the first step on a journey that would take her from abused woman to self-made entrepreneur – to serve as a living example that things can get better. Volunteering at Mosaic Family Services, she encouraged women with her story and joined alongside them to paint, build, decorate, and help make their house a home. Chelsie recalls that the women were thankful to see that it can get better, saying “Thank you for letting us know how it can be.”

Chelsie says that she believes that every woman is created for something great. Part of her greatness is giving back to people just like her, and United Way is very proud to have her on our side!