After sister’s death, KC business owner on mission to raise awareness of domestic violence

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Thanksgiving is a month away and, of course, for many it's traditionally a festive, celebratory time. But not for the owner of Brick House KC.

"It once was always a fun holiday, you know. We always had good food to go around. It's kind of depressing  now," Jimmy Benjamin said.

Four years ago on Thanksgiving Day, Benjamin's sister, Michelle Benjamin-Biro, was killed in Blue Springs. The 31-year-old accountant was the victim of a murder-suicide.

"She was always very sweet and very kind. It was kind of like almost her and I against the world," Benjamin said.

The two siblings were inseparable. They enjoyed hanging out together, taking pictures and both loved the Royals.

"We would always go to Opening Day of the Royals and Opening Day of the Chiefs," Benjamin said.

Benjamin said his sister's husband took her life and then his own. Now, he simply wishes he could see his sister again.

"Nobody deserves to be a victim of domestic violence, especially someone like Michelle. She was just very quiet, very loving. She really was a sweet person," he said.

On Wednesday night, Benjamin attracted a usual crowd at his bar and restaurant near 31st and Main. Amid all the food and drinks, he was on a mission for Michelle.

With tears in his eyes, Benjamin's goal this night: raise awareness about domestic violence.

"I would tell people to believe the woman," Benjamin said.

He also pays close attention to any possible signs a victim of domestic violence may be sending off.

"If somebody comes to you and is asking for help or you know things that are going on in their life, make sure you're listening," Benjamin said.

"Awareness is key, and acknowledgement is such a big part of it," said Anne Aubuchon with Hope House.

In 1983, Hope House opened its doors with one goal in mind: "Save lives by providing safe refuge for those affected by domestic violence."

All proceeds and a portion of the sales from Benjamin's benefit Wednesday night went to the shelter.

"Getting it out there and understanding that it happens is important, and you need to be supportive. Support is just being there for that person," Aubuchon said.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, Hope House is a safe place you can turn to for help. To reach Hope House, call 816-461-HOPE (816-461-4673). You can also reach any of the six Kansas City metro shelters by calling the domestic violence metro hotline at 816-468-5463.

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