Where Do The Years Go?
I had just finished college at the University of Akron, and was offered my first “real” job as the Volunteer Coordinator of the Rape Crisis Center located at the YWCA. That seems like forever ago. In actuality, it was 35 years ago. The YWCA was a wonderful place to get my feet wet, both in victim services and collaborative work. The first ten years of my career was spent working with survivors of sexual assault. I learned under some amazing women, including Ilene Shapiro, Carrie Herman, Artemis Topougis, Carole Garrison and Judy Joyce (and a list too long to mention). But, after ten years, I received a call from a very special lady, Lois Foster, from the United Way of Summit County. Lois challenged me to apply for a job as the Executive Director of the Battered Women’s Shelter. I compared the two jobs: the Rape Crisis Center had 3 staff and a budget of $350,000 while the Battered Women’s Shelter had 11 employees and a budget of $450,000 annually. Looked like a next step and I took the challenge. A wonderful man, Alan Rothenbuecher (Board Chairperson) believed in me on the day of my interview and I was given a wonderful opportunity.
Fast forward 25 years. The Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center are now both under the same roof, operating as the Center for Hope and Healing. Emergency beds have grown from 44 to 185. Medina now has its own shelter. The Center provides ongoing therapy, prevention and education, advocacy in hospitals and courtrooms. The most valuable asset, the employees have grown to over 135 professionals with extensive training in Trauma Informed Care. Over 40,000 nights of protective sheltering are provided each year. Combined budgets exceed 5 million dollars. The organization has been visited by hundreds of local and state leaders. Additionally, people such as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson and even Gloria Steinem.
It has been an honor to serve as the CEO of the Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center. This organization (the Boards of Directors and the employees) have helped me grow as a person and a leader. My professional family has been by my side through some horrible life challenges, but they have also seen some wonderful and humbling special moments in my life. If we multiple approximately 20,000 people per year x 25 years, that would mean I have been a part of helping to support over a half a million people through the years.
An UNBELIEVABLE career. I have been supported by thousands of community members, from business leaders, to politicians, to churches and civic groups. The support I have received, results in better programs and services for victims of crime. I could have never dreamt of a better life of service and it’s not over yet. There are things I still need to accomplish, including program improvements, an updated shelter in Medina, more intensive services for children and elder abuse victims. Additionally, I feel I still have a major role in grooming the next generation of leaders. The missions and leaders of the GAR Foundation, Akron Community Foundation and Women’s Network have instilled in my heart a desire to keep the victim movement going, by teaching those that will follow in my footsteps.
Finally, as I take a moment to look back, I feel the need to thank my family. My Dad, Mom, siblings, nieces, nephews, and a few best friends (J & E) have been at my side every step of the way. This group has been there each day to celebrate the success and support me in the miss-steps. The blessings and unconditional love that these people give to me is indescribably. I have no idea why God granted me this special group of people, but I am eternally thankful.
I thank you, the community for believing in my ability to lead this organization. I have promised you that I would be a trustworthy steward of your donations and I pray that I’ve never let you down. From the bottom of my heart, and for all those victims who have been helped through your kindness, I thank you for remembering this agency over and over again.
Thank you for 25 wonderful years,