A new leash on life

Beck’s Place clients share stories of perseverance at fundraiser

Kelly Sullivan

For the last year people have known Lisa Collier as Beverly Rupe.

It is the name she introduced herself as in person. It is her alias on social media.

The single mother was in hiding from her ex-boyfriend, whom she said abused her mentally, emotionally and physically for the past five years, prior to their separation this summer.

Collier said she is no longer going to live in fear.

She made her exit from anonymity at the second Evening at Adam’s Beck’s Place Fundraiser Dinner and Silent Auction held last Monday at Adam’s Northwest Bistro and Brewery in Monroe. The event raised more than $14,000 for the local nonprofit that assists pet owners in crisis; animals are also family at Beck’s Place.

Founder Melanie Ryan introduced Collier to the crowd packing the restaurant that night. She called Collier one of the bravest women she knows. She has watched Collier grow as a person since she first came seeking services two years ago with Gus, her Black Mouth Cur Pitbull mix. Collier’s is a powerful story, she said.

“She is not the same woman, or had the same strength when I first met her,” Ryan said.

Right before Collier started her last relationship, her previous partner had tried to kill her. He came after her with a baseball bat, she said, and Gus fought the weapon away.

Her ex-boyfriend also demolished the rental home they lived in together during the same incident, she said, causing more than $10,000 in damages. He destroyed family heirlooms, including ceramics her grandmother made her. Those are impossible to replace, she said.

Collier grew up in Everett. With her sister standing beside her Monday, she said she had a good childhood. Their parents have been married for decades — they had stability and love.

It is still unclear to Collier why she got in that first relationship. A counselor suggested the PTSD she suffers from started because of a childhood trauma — the death of her grandfather. He was her best friend, she said.

Collier said she likely has been looking for that same bond ever since. That might have contributed to her selection in partners. She said she can’t say she honestly knows the real reasons why though, not yet at least.

After the end of her violent relationship nearly five years ago, Collier almost immediately entered into the second. The man was her cousin’s friend. Her cousin had warned her, she said.

The rest of her family was supportive throughout. Collier would go to her sisters to spend a night or two when things were bad at home. She would pretend to come over so they could spend time together. Her sister said she knew the truth though. She exclaimed “hallelujah” at the mention of the couple’s breakup.

Other nights, Collier would sleep in her truck or at her friend’s home; Gus was always with her. 

Collier said it starts out as verbal comments. By the end, her ex-boyfriend was punching walls and slamming doors. If she was five minutes late, there would be a blowout. She would wake up at 2 a.m. to things being thrown at her, unsure of what she had done to initiate the rage.

“He would be screaming at me,” she said. “My dog would also be jumping on the bed because he would be scared.”

Collier said she would go visit her parents and daughter in Everett. Within hours of returning home there would be a fight. Her ex-boyfriend would say she came back with a different attitude and that her mother and father had been speaking poorly of him. It was just his own insecurity, she said.

“I didn’t deserve to be scared in my own home,” she said.

Since speaking out Monday, and in the weeks leading up to the event, Collier found herself expressing her emotions more freely. She has called people she has known for decades to tell them how she feels about them.

“I feel more confident and I feel empowered,” she said. “I don’t feel like I am a victim; I am a survivor and a fighter. If I can conquer this, I can conquer anything.”

Collier said she hopes to get the chance to talk about her experience in public again.

She said when she was 17 she took a restraining order out against her older boyfriend at the time. She said she wants to help others identify the cycle before they are in the middle of it.

Whenever she asked why her most-recent ex-boyfriend why he treated her the way he did, why he didn’t love her better, he would say, “I am here, aren’t I?” Things continued to get worse; if there was one thing she could tell other victims, it’s that it always does.

“His eyes were changing,” she said. “It was like he hated the world and hated me.”

Collier tried leaving about four times. Beck’s Place put her and Gus up in a hotel for days while she tried to cut off contact during two of those attempts. Ryan was always supportive of her decision to leave or stay.

“No matter what you choose, I love you,” Collier recalls Ryan saying to her.

Ryan said at Beck’s Place everyone tries to maintain the same level of unconditional acceptance toward their clients as a pet would to its owner. In that way the nonprofit is able to serve clients and receive a service in return, she said.

She said she is glad Collier is no longer hiding.

It wasn’t the only story of struggle and success told during the Oct. 9 event. Another woman, Cheri Liles-Heide, who has made it back on her feet with the support of Beck’s Place, also spoke up.

Liles-Heide said if it wasn’t for Beck’s Place, she and her daughter would still be homeless. They lost their apartment when rent was raised so high they could no longer fill the $500 gap that was created between their income and what they were being billed each month.

By December they were staying in a shelter with their 7-year-old Yorkie. Their time eventually ran out. Their next best option was to get back into their van. That was the only way to keep the family of three together.

“If we would have been back in our car, I would have just given up because it’s pretty hopeless,” she said.

Ryan set their dog up in foster care. The boarding program was started specifically for low-income clients who don’t seek treatment for abuse of alcohol or drugs, and for victims of domestic violence who won’t leave the relationship because doing so would mean they would have to give up their pet.

Once a dog or cat is placed in the foster boarding program, Beck’s Place works to keep in regular contact with the families. She has previously said her objectives for the nonprofit are to keep families together, connect clients with services, reduce the number of animal surrenders at local shelters and improve the health and welfare of animals.

Beck’s Place helps feed pets, and therefore families, through a pet food and supply bank. Volunteers also deliver to sites between Snohomish and Index, according to the nonprofit.

Often owners make sure their animal is fed first, even if that means they go hungry. Beck’s Place also coordinates veterinary care for low-income pet owners through a partnership with Good Neighbor Vet out of the Tractor Supply store in Monroe.

All of the services provided through Beck’s Place are out in the field, according to Ryan. The goal of the dinner event was to raise $10,000. Since the final amount was so far over, Ryan announced the nonprofit’s board of directors will be asked to put the extra money in a capital fund. Eventually, the hope is that the organization will have a permanent address.

“While we will always use this (out-in-the-field) model, as it allows us to more deeply serve and build relationships with our families, a permanent facility will allow us to expand our foster boarding program and provide some services that are more efficiently run in a centralized location,” according to Ryan.

For about five months Liles-Heide and her daughter were able to stay in another shelter that didn’t accept animals while their Yorkie stayed with a good friend of Ryan’s. It was there that they were introduced to a transitional housing program.

Liles-Heide said she didn’t go see her pet often because she felt it would be too painful for both the dog and herself. She said the foster owner sent her photos and updates about her pet often. The reunion after all those months of separation was emotional, she said.

The time apart proved to be essential though. Had the couple not gone to that second shelter,

Liles-Heide said, they may not have been connected with the services they needed to get back on their feet. For the past few months they have been in a safe home, and had the security and stability needed to look for work again.

“Beck’s Place saved our life, really,” she said.


Photos by Kelly Sullivan: Lisa Collier made her exit from anonymity at the second Evening at Adam’s Beck’s Place Fundraiser Dinner and Silent Auction at Adam’s Northwest Bistro and Brewery in Monroe on Monday, Oct. 9. Three people who have received life-changing services from Beck’s Place spoke about their experience at the second Evening at Adam’s Beck’s Place Fundraiser Dinner and Silent Auction.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment