Orange County Register: Moving company comes to the aid of domestic violence victims
BY JESSICA KWONG
As he was working a moving job, Orange County native Mike Damien knew his client wasn’t the average person stressed out about a relocation.
The woman was a domestic violence victim, and she was fleeing a damaging situation. Damien’s employer, Meathead Movers, had trained him and the other employees to be especially sensitive on this type of assignment.
“We just wanted to make sure we were working quick, just to get her out of there,” Damien, 21, said. “We were always upbeat, always with smiles on our faces. Her spirit started getting picked up and lifted.”
The move was free for the client, as it is for many other domestic violence victims whom Meathead Movers, a company employing primarily student-athletes, has helped get into healthier situations since the late 1990s. With four offices in California, including one in Santa Ana, the company recently launched the nonprofit organization #MoveToEndDV to further its mission of ending domestic violence, one move at a time.
The philanthropy work started shortly after Aaron Steed and his brother Evan Steed, a wrestler and football player, respectively, at San Luis Obispo High School, worked moving jobs for their friends’ parents for whatever amount they were willing to pay.
The Steed brothers founded Meathead Movers in San Luis Obispo and in 1998 began advertising their business. Soon, Aaron Steed started getting phone calls from women offering furniture and some of their belongings in exchange for a move out of their batterer’s home.
“I just couldn’t imagine saying no because you’re potentially saving someone’s life,” Aaron Steed, 36, said. “It was easy for us to conclude that there’s no more valuable way a moving company can utilize their services than help move domestic violence victims.”
But the movers eventually found themselves in a dangerous situation. Around 2000, a batterer came home as Meathead Movers helped move a domestic violence victim in Morro Bay.
“He threw a toaster oven. Police were called,” Aaron Steed recalled. “That’s when we figured out that in order to keep offering these services, we had to do it another way, so that’s when we reached out to a local women’s shelter.”
Since then, Meathead Movers has established partnerships with nine shelters that refer victims and ensure circumstances are safe for moves. The company teamed with Human Options in Orange County earlier this year.
For domestic violence victims, the free moving help is invaluable, said David Gillanders, Human Options’ director of residential programs.
“It’s one less thing that they have to be worried about and concerned about when their life is getting turned upside down,” he said.
It usually takes domestic violence victims under the power and control of a batterer seven attempts to get out of a situation, Gillanders said.
Meathead Movers established the nonprofit in June to encourage at least 10,000 businesses across the globe to pledge free products or services for domestic violence shelters, victims and survivors. Along with the nonprofit launch, the company has introduced a volunteer ambassador program aimed at sending #MoveToEndDV-vetted ambassadors into communities to curate a list of needs from shelters and connect them to businesses.
Besides knowing they’ve helped someone in need, the movers, primarily men, see the negative effects of violence.
“Since our men are larger and a big presence, they could be afraid of us,” Meathead Movers operations manager A.J. Clarey, 24, said of the clients. “So we try to be as courteous as possible and get the move done as efficiently as we can.”
Meathead Movers employee Ben Hughes, 26, who played defensive tackle for the University of Montana football team, said one domestic violence victim was “a little shy, standoffish” at the start of her move. But that changed by the end of the job.
“She was very, very grateful and couldn’t thank us enough,” Hughes said.