Story by Carolyn Robbins
SPRINGFIELD — A fundraising breakfast on Tuesday to support the YWCA’s work serving victims of domestic violence had the aura of an Election Day campaign rally — and that’s what Elizabeth Dineen, the agency’s executive director, was hoping for as she spoke to a crowd that helped raise $60,000.
Speaking at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Dineen — a former prosecutor in the district attorney’s office — said when the YWCA decided to revive a long-standing tradition of sponsoring breakfasts to raise awareness about the important work it does, someone asked how many people might attend.
“I said maybe 100,” Dineen said. “We have 368 people here today and 400 people bought tickets.”
Besides Dineen, who assumed leadership of the YWCA of Western Massachusetts in 2016, several of the agency’s staff members spoke to the audience about the frightening situation survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault face when they seek help.
The YWCA operates a 24-hour hotline at 413-733-7100.
“We are the first people to talk to survivors after they call our hotline,” said social worker India Kyles, adding that the agency has received 6,364 calls for help so far this year, including from 2,176 people seeking shelter.
Kyles said the agency dispatches medical personnel to aid victims of rape, and accompanies them to the hospital for treatment and where forensic evidence can be gathered by law enforcement should the victim seek to file criminal charges.
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, who co-chaired the event, and District Attorney Anthony Gulluni all praised the work of the YWCA.
Cocchi said a $22,000 check from an anonymous donor will enable the YWCA to fight human trafficking with the addition of two rooms at its Springfield shelter to help victims escape a life of prostitution.
With help from the sheriff’s office, the YW raised a total of $60,000.
“When I called Liz Dineen to tell her about the donation,” she cried, Cocchi said. “And then I did.”
Neal said the YWCA is a beacon of hope during a time of national outrage over the tone of political discourse.
The congressman commended the Clough Street neighborhood where the YWCA is located for welcoming the shelter. “It was brand advocacy at its best,” he said.
Doris Gonzalez, property manager for the YWCA of Western Massachusetts headquarters and shelter, said the shelter has studio apartments and two- and three-bedroom apartments.
“For so many of our survivors, coming here is the first time in their life that they feel safe,” she said, adding that the goal is to help them achieve independence, finding homes and jobs.
The agency is often the only resort for survivors, Dineen said.
“When a woman with a child comes to our shelter, she often comes with nothing except the clothes on her back, maybe a blanket and a comforting toy for the child,” Dineen said.
“As we head into the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, I hope you consider the work we are doing — transforming lives every day at the YWCA,” Dineen said.
Dineen and several of the speakers reminded the audience of the YWCA’s mission: “Dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”
And on an ending note, Dineen urged everyone at the event to go out and vote.
Posted on November 7, 2018 at 9:48 am