Updated: Mar 25, 2019
I've officially been the Executive Director of The Willow Domestic Violence Center now for a few months, though I've been sitting in the chair since mid-October. It seems like a good time for me to update the community on happenings, plans, and hopes for the future of this organization.
First, I have to say how humbling this experience has been. To follow in the footsteps of Joan Schultz, who is my friend, mentor, and one of the greatest leaders with whom I've ever had the privilege to work is an honor. My greatest hope is that I can do justice to her legacy and continue the momentum of progressive change and growth she created.
I am fortunate to have worked with such an incredible staff for the last few years and now have the opportunity to help them grow in their programs and practices. One of my first and most exciting orders of business is to create a systems change training program. Our advocates have always been on the cutting edge of the field and we want to continue that trajectory in a significant way. The Willow is embarking on a path to a low-barrier model of service provision. This means that we are having a hard look at the external AND internal barriers that survivors might encounter in trying to access our services and be successful with them.
It is my vision to institute large-scale training opportunities from national leaders and organizations that will be sustainable with staff into the future. This in-depth training will help us examine systems of oppression, question our biases, and revamp policy to reflect best practices. Change can be slow and painful, and we are up to the challenge. It is our goal to include other community partners in this training in order to have the greatest impact on violence, homelessness, and systematic oppression that we can possibly create. We want this development to make ourselves and our partners leaders in the community in these areas.
The Willow is also looking forward to expanding services in thoughtful ways that stay within our mission, but create more permanent change for survivors and support their long-term success. To this end, we are examining new ways of looking at survivor transitions, expanding our support groups and classes, and examining our data to find areas for growth internally.
One of the key pieces of the complicated domestic violence puzzle, and one that is often overlooked because of funding and resource availability, is prevention. We work very hard to prevent further damage, injury, and emotional trauma from happening to survivors once they reach out for our services. But it is so important that we work constantly to prevent these situations from ever beginning. While we know that is a big hill to climb, we are looking now for ways to grow our prevention programs. Currently, we speak to every eighth grader in USD 497 and many students from Franklin and Jefferson counties as well about healthy relationships, and what to do to help a friend who might be in trouble. There is so much more we can do. In the next year, we hope to double our prevention staff and develop new and innovative ways to reach not only youth but adults who might be able to help spread positive messages about what domestic violence is, what a healthy relationship requires, and how to spot red flags.
These are just a few of our projects, and because our staff is so committed, I know there will be more. It is my job now to encourage their emotional well-being, creativity, and passion. I am charged with maintaining financial viability and fidelity to our donors and funders - a job I do not take lightly. Developing the funds to do this intense work is a labor of love, and I take every dollar that is graciously given in the service of survivors extremely seriously. We cannot do our work without the trust and support of our grantors, donors, and foundations. I welcome anyone from the community to come and visit our offices, learn more about our work, and explore ways to help us prevent violence in our communities.
We know that relationship violence affects almost half of the population in some way. This is an epidemic. It is painful, expensive, and has long-term effects on children, neighborhoods, family systems, tax-payers, law enforcement, mental health, and schools, to name just a few. I am grateful to be of service to this cause, and I hope you will all join me in making a difference.