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More than a year after Dana’s daughter had last seen her mother beaten, the little girl was still having nightmares, suffering from separation anxiety and displaying odd, anxious quirks.

Her socks, for example, had to be on her feet perfectly and exactly straight. It was just one manifestation of her distress over the violence she’d seen and later the loss of her family and home, her mother said.

But all of those troublesome indicators of stress began to vanish soon after Lola, now 4, started attending the Early Learning Center at Wellspring Family Services in South Seattle.

“She started blossoming,” Dana said.

Wellspring seeks to help families build stability by providing wraparound services that address some of the root issues of distress, including mental-health problems, domestic violence and homelessness

It is among the 12 agencies that benefit from The Seattle Times’ Fund for the Needy, which has raised more than $16.5 million for agencies that help children, families and senior citizens since its inception 36 years ago.

Last year, Wellspring helped more than 4,000 people, including 230 families who were able to move into permanent housing. Of those families, 88 percent remained stably housed six months later, according to Wellspring.

Of the 92 children who attended the Early Learning Center, according to Wellspring, 90 percent gained the developmental skills required for success in kindergarten.

The agency’s Baby Boutique provided new and gently used clothing, toys, books and boots to 2,383 children whose parents were able to shop there for free.

It was a service that Dana gratefully utilized when she and Lola were surviving on $385 a month, with one-third of that going toward rent at the King County domestic-violence shelter where she and Lola lived. The Seattle Times is not using their last names to protect their privacy.

“When we first connected with Wellspring, we were poisoned with anxiety. Lola needed somewhere healthy to go so that I could take care of myself and get back on my feet,” Dana said.

Dana, 30 and from a stable family from Southern California, had never imagined that she would one day wind up a victim of domestic violence and homelessness and be on welfare.

A little more than 18 months ago, she became convinced she might not survive if she did not escape her “brutally abusive” relationship.

One time, during a beating in which Dana’s nose was broken, Lola cried to her father, “Don’t hit my mommy! She’s my best friend.”

“I didn’t care about myself then,” said Dana, who had turned to alcohol and drugs to escape her pain. “But when I saw how she was suffering, it made me realize I had to get out.”

In desperation and secrecy, she sought a treatment center that would accept her and Lola. “Rehab was my escape. It was the only out I could think of,” she said.

When she graduated from the treatment center, she was clean but afraid her ex would find her, so she moved into a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

There, a caseworker made arrangements for Lola to be enrolled in the Early Learning Center, where teachers and therapists are trained to recognize and address symptoms of trauma as well as any learning difficulties or gaps.

Her ex is in prison now for assaulting someone else. Dana says she never reported the violence to police. “I believed he would kill me.”

Wellspring not only provides services for children, but also for the parents and other adult caretakers as well. The agency offers domestic-violence treatment, counseling and parenting classes to help adults confront and resolve the traumas they themselves faced as children and break the cycle of abuse and neglect.

“The best way to provide stability for children is to help families tap into their own resilience, resourcefulness and strength,” said Ruthann Howell, Wellspring’s president and CEO.

One seemingly small part of the agency’s assistance is that it provides transportation for the children to and from the learning center each day. For parents who are without a car, the service is invaluable, Dana said.

“Once I knew she was somewhere safe and healthy, I was able to address my own anxiety, focus on my sobriety and start to heal,” Dana said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that if this place and these services weren’t here.”

Dana, who has a bachelor of arts from The Evergreen State College, used the time while Lola was in school to hit a lot of 12-step meetings, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and volunteer at a public-health agency.

Now, she has a full-time job — with health care and benefits — at a local social-service agency. She’s hunting for an apartment and expects she and Lola will land on their feet and be able to pay their own way within a few months.

“I don’t know if we would have been able to do it without Wellspring,” she said. “When Lola first started here, I was weighted down with shame and fear. They helped me feel normal. They helped me feel like I could hold my head up. And that helped me be able to do what I’ve needed to do.

“The people here are amazing.”

Christine Clarridge can be reached at or 206-4640-8983 or on Twitter@seaclarridge.Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.