Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

Shine a Light Blog

Shine a Light Blog

They’re for Safe Homes and Purple Purses


Just thinking of the word do you exhale, smile a bit and feel calmer? I do. Home (no matter how bustling or busy) is a place you are loved, surrounded by family, and where you can be relaxed and comfortable. But in a home where there’s domestic violence, sometimes the home is loving and then can, in an instant, change to a place with fear. So the people living there are never fully relaxed. At Wellspring, survivors often describe, “always feeling like I’m walking on eggshells.” Charles Wait Jr. knows that, “when violence enters the home, people need safe spaces… and Wellspring offers a safe place to go.” Click here for more about why he supports Wellspring’s work and the Purple Purse Challenge.

Belmonte Builders knows a thing or two about building homes from the foundation to the roof shingles. Lindsey Belmonte supports Wellspring’s work because like Belmonte Builders we help create, “safe homes in safe communities”.  Click here for more from Lindsey.

As a realtor, Karen Charbonneau of Miranda Realty certainly knows the importance of a home. But her reason for supporting Wellspring and the Purple Purse Challenge is far deeper and more personal. As a teenager, she saw children growing up in homes with domestic violence and she remembers, “the fear in the faces of children in homes with domestic violence.” As she talks about it, it’s clear that these years later she still  remembers those faces, and cares about this issue because she too wants a community where no child experiences that fear…especially at home. Click here for more from Karen.

When an individual or a family needs to leave home because it’s not safe, Wellspring can help. Last year alone we provided 2,865 bed nights of safe slumber for adults and children fleeing abuse. Shelter isn’t our only housing option though. Our NewView Housing program provides rent subsidized apartments throughout Saratoga County for domestic violence survivors. Last year we provided apartments for 31 families (with 45 children) so they could be safe (that’s 17,000 nights of safe sleep in a violence-free home). In addition to the rent subsidy we provide weekly in-home support services to help the family remain safe, heal, and achieve employment of financial goals so they can remain abuse-free and be self-sufficient.

Purses Looking Out From Inside

Because I spend so much time talking to the public about Wellspring, people often think of me when they think of the agency. But I’m only a very small part of Wellspring. The agency has 19 dedicated employees who daily carry out our mission to support survivors and engage the community to end relationship and sexual abuse. They quietly and humbly provide the caring and knowledgeable support that helps survivors achieve safety, heal from trauma and transcend the abuse. We also have a board of directors that focuses on long range goals so Wellspring will continue to meet the needs of our community. And we have dedicated volunteers and interns who help in many different ways: fostering pets, providing financial literacy training,  assisting with office work, and helping with fundraisers (and we’ve got a bunch of those coming up in October!)
Today two of our advocates are my guest bloggers,  sharing their thoughts on the work they do and how your support enables them to make a difference. They coordinate one of our October fundraisers each year as a way to connect with you. Enough from me,  their words are way more meaningful…

As Wellspring advocates, we work directly with people experiencing domestic or sexual abuse. We assist clients through a variety of challenges; advocates may find themselves linking clients to important resources that may pay for costly medications and services their insurance do not cover, or working with clients to process their experience and the reactions associated with the trauma they have undergone. We may accompany clients to police stations or to the hospital for an exam. If clients choose to report and their case goes to prosecution, we will accompany the victim through any stage of the process and offer emotional support. We also offer assistance and support to family members or friends of a victim to help them process their feelings and to help them best support their loved one. Every day we work hard to ensure that victims feel heard and supported, and that they are given all of the information they need in order to make informed decisions. Additionally, we work to engage the community to end relationship and sexual abuse. Throughout the year, we present information about the dynamics of dating violence, consent, and healthy relationships to over 5,000 high schools students throughout the county. Additionally, we work with Skidmore students on social change initiatives.

This October, Wellspring will again be participating in the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge. The Allstate Foundation created the Purple Purse Challenge to raise awareness about an often overlooked tactic of control: financial abuse. The Challenge calls on domestic violence agencies to raise funds throughout October that the Foundation will match or even multiply. The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge encourages advocates to go beyond their job title to spread awareness and engage our community in new and creative ways.

On October 12th, Wellspring is teaming up with local restaurant NaNola to host our second annual event for the Purple Purse Challenge: Wellspring at NaNola. There will be a 50/50, raffle give-a-ways, and a game of Family Feud for everyone to participate in. Wellspring at NaNola is a way for community members to show that they want to be a part of the solution to end domestic abuse. Last year, we were moved by the support Wellspring received and we are excited to see what this year brings. By supporting Wellspring at NaNola, you are helping Wellspring provide services to survivors that may not be available without your contribution.  If a client calls needing space for shelter, but our shelter is unsafe for them or full, your contribution allows us to buy them bus tickets to assist in their relocation to another county’s domestic violence shelter. A family may come in after a day’s worth of travel for us to find that they have not had access to food, your contribution allows us to buy them lunch while they complete a shelter intake. Clients who have been denied access to money may need professional clothes for a job interview, gas to get to their child’s school play, or money to fill a prescription; it is your contribution that allows us to give them a gift card to assist with those needs. Your contribution helps Wellspring to assist with everyday needs that other grant resources may not cover, allowing Wellspring to provide more comprehensive services keeping in mind the various challenges clients may face.

Wellspring wants to extend a huge thank you to our community!

          Thank you to the local businesses throughout Saratoga County that have donated items for our raffle.

          Thank you to NaNola for donating your space, a percentage of Thursday October 12th’s sales and your continued support of Wellspring!

          And Thank YOU for supporting our event. We are proud to be a part of a community that so readily supports our goal of ending relationship and sexual abuse in our community.

Differently Abled Purses

By now you’ve probably realized that every day Wellspring collaborates with many of our local nonprofit agencies and community organizations to  provide the best services we can for our clients. We don’t need to re-create the wheel if another agency has a program or service  that would benefit our clients, we refer them… and they do the same.  The mission of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (EOC) is to provide and promote opportunities for individuals and families to achieve self-sufficiency– clearly a mission that’s also important to Wellspring. Click here to hear Krystal Nowhitney Hernandez  talk about how EOC collaborates and supports Wellspring’s mission… the second part of her video is a clue to just one of the unique challenges domestic violence survivors may face as they look to leave the abuse.
The Prevention Council strives to give youth the skills they need to choose healthy behaviors (thereby reducing the possibility that they will engage in drug or alcohol use or other risk behaviors). Their executive director, Janine Stuchin  says “everyone deserves to grow up in a home that is safe.” and she also knows that addressing violence in the home can reduce the risk of drug and alcohol use among youth. Click here for more from Janine.
Sometimes the social issues that correlate with domestic violence aren’t readily apparent. AIM Services is dedicated to partnering with people of diverse abilities to foster growth and independence. The people they assist may have developmental challenges or traumatic brain injury. How does this intersect with the work of Wellspring? Abusers may prey upon someone with challenges, exploiting their vulnerabilities. Alternately, just being a victim of abuse, particularly intense or repeated physical abuse, can result in traumatic brain injury. Often the symptoms and how they impact the person’s life aren’t identified or connected to their history of domestic violence… sometimes simply because no one has asked about a history of abuse. Both Wellspring and AIM Services work to provide what Walt Adams describes as “a better quality of life for people at a time in their life when they really need someone who can understand and support them.” Click here for more from Walt
Every domestic violence survivor’s obstacles to leaving and their support needs are different. Often they bring vulnerabilities that may have predated the  abuse… or may be as a result of trauma caused by the domestic violence… or by a lifetime of trauma. The barriers are diverse: limited proficiency in English, immigration concerns, learning or developmental disabilities. These can all complicate employment and self-sufficiency. Or there may be mental health concerns or alcohol or drug dependencies- sometimes these were coping strategies that helped the person get through the day… but in the end complicated their life. And sometimes what people think of as deficiencies or challenges, when looked at from a different angle show strength and resilience, that folks who haven’t overcome such obstacles don’t have. At Wellspring we understand the complexities of people’s lives and have partnerships with other organizations to provide the support they need to overcome these barriers.  So whatever challenges you are struggling with, you are not alone. We can help.

Nicole Kidman Is Holding an Emmy Instead of a Purple Purse

… but she’s holding it for the same reason.

Did you watch the Emmy Awards last night? Arguably the most powerful acceptance speech was delivered by Nicole Kidman as she accepted the award for outstanding actress in a limited series or movie. It’s her first Emmy, but her words will linger in Emmy history, “… sometimes when you’re acting, you get a chance to bring a bigger message… We shone a light on domestic abuse.”

She accepted the award for her role in Big Little Lies, where she played a character who was in an abusive relationship. She acknowledged how difficult it was to play this role. I applaud Kidman for using her moment of recognition to open up a conversation about the “complicated, insidious disease” of domestic violence. The first step to ending relationship abuse is to talk about it so we’re able to recognize it, understand it, and help victims toward the resources they need to become survivors.

And we’ve got an opportunity to start that conversation right here in Saratoga County. On Sunday, October 15th at 4 pm at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, we’re having an open community discussion about Big Little Lies. It’s like a one time book club. If you missed a previous blog post, where Robin Dalton talked about Big Little Lies  and the work Wellspring does, you can see it here. Thanks Nicole… and thanks Robin,  for inspiring us to start the conversation. We all know that when women start talking about what really matters, positive change happens. So whether you’ve read the book or watched the series, join us…  there will be women -and men- there who care about this issue too. Let’s start to conversation, and then let’s work together to end relationship and sexual abuse.

Senator Tedisco’s Purse Protects Our Most Vulnerable Family Members

If you- or your dog- missed yesterday’s blog post,  it was an invitation to join us for the 7th Annual Pooch Parade. It’s a fun event that supports a very serious need, the often forgotten victims of domestic violence, our pets. Senator Jim Tedisco has long been a champion for those whose voices aren’t heard, especially for children and for animals. For decades he has represented us advocating for fiscal accountability and state government reform…and his commitment to protecting vulnerable children and animals has always been central to his public services.  It’s been a primary message in his campaign promises, ‘Realizing that animal cruelty is a bridge crime and those who abuse animals often go on to hurt people, Tedisco was the driving force behind passage of the landmark Buster’s Law to protect our pets by making animal cruelty a felony. In 2011, Tedisco again made history by creating the first-ever NYS Animal Advocacy Day to give voice to all members of our families.’

Click here to hear why he supports the work of Wellspring and other agencies like ours that provide a vital link to the safety for survivors of abuse.

Pooches with Purses

Calling all pups. Grab your purple purses (or just your leash and your human) and get ready for the Pooch Parade. It’s a fun, family oriented event with adorable pooches, a blessing of the pets, raffles, and even free biscuits. And your pooch will leave the event in style with a new kerchief… and maybe even a pawdicure (only $5 for nail trimming). All the proceeds benefit Wellspring’s survivor services and prevention efforts.

Wondering what’s the connection between pups and a domestic violence agency? You know Wellspring helps individuals and families be safe from abuse. But sometimes we forget that in a home where there’s abuse, every family member can be a victim… and that includes our furry, feathered and finned family members.  Wellspring has a Safe Pet Partnership that provides temporary foster homes for pets, while their families are in shelter. Then when they find a violence-free home, they can all be reunited.

Our friends at Adirondack Veterinary Services, and our event chair Maribeth Wallingford, invite you to join Andy, my dog with a purple purse, at the Pooch Parade. We’ll also be recognizing the dogs that work hard helping others, our local K9 dogs and also our friends from Therapy Dogs International.

My Role Models With A Purple Purse

In yesterday’s blog, I highlighted 80 women who inspire me every day… well I’m continuing that theme with three more women who are changemakers in our community, in so many ways.

Linda Toohey isn’t just an impressive and unparalleled community leader in her own right, but she has inspired and mentored hundreds (thousands?) of local professionals to be impactful volunteers and 
leaders. The legacy she created through Leadership Saratoga has transformed our nonprofit community since 1985; the contributions of these dedicated leaders to health human services organizations, the arts, higher education, and public service can’t be quantified.  Yesterday Linda and I were talking and she started our conversation with the intriguing line, “If I were a betting woman…” and continued with how this related to Wellspring’s mission. Wondering what she’d bet on? Click here to find out.

Theresa Skaine, a 2006 graduate of Leadership Saratoga, doesn’t let a busy life stand in the way of community volunteerism, serving on the Saratoga Hospital Board of Trustees, the Regional YMCA Board of Directors,  the Saratoga Springs Senior Center… and she served as the president of Wellspring’s board for many years. I recall hearing Theresa speaking on a panel to a group of professional women many years ago and she was asked for her advice on achieving work/life balance. I’ve never forgotten her answer as it was forthright, totally relatable and channeled the humor and acceptance we all need to balance our lives. I’m paraphrasing, but her secret was to realize that you can’t stay on top of everything all the time, but need to make sure nothing slips off the radar for too long. That’s advice I can follow. Theresa’s breadth and depth of knowledge about Wellspring is evident in her words (click here for her video), “All Wellspring’s programs create a community that’s better to live in.”

I’ve had many delightful and insightful on-air conversations with Jesse Jackson at Look TV. But when the cameras stop rolling, I often linger in the studio chatting with Antoinette Jackson about Wellspring’s work and our vision of ending relationship and sexual abuse. Our conversations take deep dives into issues of equality, empowering women and creating social change and peaceable communities. I’m always inspired by her hopefulness about encouraging positive change, “Wellspring offers an array of opportunities for someone who wants to make a change in their life.” Click here for more from Antoinette.

Many people think of Wellspring as a place you can turn to when in crisis, but you don’t need to be in crisis to receive our services, nor do you need to be considering leaving a relationship to work with us.  You can call our hotline or make an appointment with an advocate when you need information… or just need to talk.  You may not even be sure that what you’re experiencing in the relationship is abuse; that’s OK, we’ll explore that with you. Many people don’t think they can access our services unless there’s physical abuse, so they ‘walk on eggshells’ enduring emotional abuse, social isolation, or financial control. In fact, you don’t even need to be experiencing abuse yourself. You may be concerned for someone in your life who is an abuse victim- a relative, friend, son or daughter, parent… or employee. With free and confidential services, we can help you better understand how to support your loved one.  So don’t wait for a crisis; we can help now.

Office 518-583-0280
24 Hour Hotline 518-584-8188

The Sisterhood of Purple Purses… and More

Today is my family photo day!

These women (and more who aren’t in the picture) are all my sisters. It’s a big family with more than 80 women.  Do we look like sisters? We all look different, tall, short, skin that’s fair, freckled, olive or brown, hair that’s straight, curly, blonde, red, brown, black and shimmering silver. But we are sisters. Our family name is Soroptimist; the name means Best for Women. If you haven’t heard of Soroptimist it’s an international women’s service organization that’s been around since 1921 when a group of women in California were concerned about local issues and wanted to volunteer to improve their communities, but weren’t allowed to join the ‘male’ service organizations. Now the organization has 1,300 clubs in 20 countries with ~100,000 members.

Soroptimist Vision: Women and girls have the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential and live their dreams.
                                                                        ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
Soroptimist Mission: Soroptimist improves the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.
◆ ◆ ◆ ◆

But what makes me proud to be a Soroptimist isn’t the numbers — it’s our impact. Our local Club, Soroptimist International of Saratoga County,  supports projects locally, nationally and globally that benefit women and girls (providing $45,000 support to organizations annually). Locally we support dozens of programs like Shelters of Saratoga, CAPTAIN, Camp Abilities, Girls on the Run, To Life!… and more.  By working with  and providing financial support to other caring organizations like the Giving Circle and To Love a Child, we also have an impact far from Saratoga County. Globally we’ve established birthing centers in Uganda, mobile medical units in Ecuador, we’ve drilled wells in third world communities without water and installed sanitation in a disaster ravaged area in Haiti… and more. We don’t just send funds to support those efforts. We also have Soroptimist members who travel there, volunteer, talk to the people about what their needs are, and keep up the relationships year after year. 

And of course there’s our signature service project, Project Hope and Power, an eight week financial literacy program to help women become more financially self-sufficient. Now in its 13th year, the program has assisted about 700 women to achieve a better life for themselves and their children. Our Soroptimist members volunteer more than 400 hours each year to the program. So many participants note that it’s the inspiring Soroptimist class facilitators they see each week that gives them the confidence and inspiration to achieve their goals. Here’s the feedback from just a few of the 700 women who have participated in the program; it’s heartwarming to hear that the program has helped them with increasing their financial knowledgeable, finding independence… and more.

“I liked that most of the instructors are women.  I was definitely inspired and was given strength from them… It was very empowering and supportive when I especially needed it. “

“The things I have learned from this program will help me better not only my own future, but my children’s as well.  I left each class feeling confident and able to tackle day to day tasks that will eventually lead to achieving my goals.”

“As a result of taking this class, I plan to be more confident in myself and always remember that I’m not alone.  I will get stronger as the weeks go by, emotionally and physically.  Nothing will ever stop me again.  No one person will ever bring me down again.”

What I most like about the Soroptimist vision is that by helping a woman your impact doesn’t end there. It ripples to her children, her community, and to the generations that follow. That’s a powerful “and more“.

Their Purses Are For Safe Communities

Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch sees the prevalence of domestic violence every day, Domestic violence is one of the most difficult calls a police officer responds to … and one of the most dangerous.” Click here for more from Chief Veitch. The SSPD shares Wellspring’s goal to end relationship and sexual abuse in our community. In fact we’ve had an innovative collaboration for the past four years; Wellspring has an advocate co-located at the police department who follows up with victims after a domestic incident, offering support, information and resources. The survivors we call are often surprised at the services Wellspring offers and may take advantage of services beyond legal advocacy, such as our housing or financial literacy programs. And the daily interaction between Wellspring and the SSPD has deepened our collaboration, our understanding of the obstacles survivors face, and commitment to best practices to help survivors and educe future victimization.

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner has long been a champion for healthy families and safe children. Click here as she provides stats and insights on the prevalence of domestic violence in our community… and an inspiring call to action,”We’ve got to turn this around.” She’s right  and working together we can do it! 

Ending domestic violence doesn’t happen overnight… and you’ve got to start early to change values and beliefs. This year we’ve launched an innovative social change program, Coaching  Boys Into Men (CBIM). This evidence-based program builds on the strong relationship coaches have with young male athletes… and their influence as respected role models. CBIM provides coaches the resources they need to talk with their teams about difficult issues such as bullying, healthy relationships and signs of abuse.  Our goal in working with these coaches is to prepare their athletes to be able to handle the complexities of relationships and make them aware of abuse and what they can do to stop it. Our stuent athletes are respected role models; let’s give them the tools to influence their peers in working to end bullying and dating violence.  Coaches at Ballston Spa and Shenendehowa High schools have been trained to deliver the program this school year.   If you are interested in seeing this program at your school, call us at 518.583.0280 or email cbim@wellspringcares.org