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Domestic violence organization forming in Jackson

Destri Leger, Jackson County Coordinator for Center for Domestic Peace (right) and Victim Advocate Ruby Lawrence talk about CDP’s transition into a standalone agency. Jessi Stone photo Destri Leger, Jackson County Coordinator for Center for Domestic Peace (right) and Victim Advocate Ruby Lawrence talk about CDP’s transition into a standalone agency. Jessi Stone photo

Seven years have passed since REACH of Jackson County suddenly shut down operations due to financial issues, leaving the county without a local organization to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

REACH of Macon County stepped in to help by extending its services to Jackson County, but the goal has always been to re-establish a local organization to fulfill the local need. Stakeholders are one step closer to making that goal a reality. A new organization — Center for Domestic Peace — has been formed and recently received its first community grants. 

“It’s been a long process,” said Andrea Anderson, executive director of REACH of Macon. “When REACH of Jackson closed, a stakeholder meeting was held and it was determined Macon was in the best position to take over services. Then a task force was formed and charged with looking at what made the most sense ... after a year we determined a standalone agency would be best. REACH of Macon has always held the position that it’s more effective to have a local agency to provide those services.”

CDP, a collaborative partnership with REACH of Macon, was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2013, but has to have funding in place before it can begin providing independent services in Jackson County. The partnership was established with the mutual goal of CDP eventually becoming its own stand-alone agency — though at this time the details and timeline for that transition haven’t been worked through by the board of directors and staff. The transitioning of services from REACH of Macon to CDP is being done gradually over the next few years as CDP finds its footing and goes through a strategic planning process for its new board of directors. 

“Part of it is because a new domestic violence agency can’t receive state funding until it’s been providing services for a year so we’re helping them get that experience,” Anderson said. “We’re looking at 18 months to two years before they’re on their own.”

Having two standalone agencies will also help REACH and CDP receive more state funding. Right now REACH of Macon is receiving about the same amount of money from the state as it did when it was only providing services in Macon. However, once CDP is fully established it will receive its own full allocation from the state. 

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In the meantime, CDP was recently awarded several grants to get started, including a $1,500 grant from Balsam Mountain Preserve Fund for Jackson County, a component fund of The North Carolina Community Foundation. The funds will be used to train its new board on the skills it will need to establish CDP as an independent support agency but also to acquire the tools necessary to ensure that CDP remains an effective and sustainable community partner in Jackson County. The topics of this training will include strategic planning, timeline and board development, and long-term financial knowledge.

 

New staff

CDP was also awarded a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s People in Need program as well as a $10,000 grant from The Evergreen Foundation, which has helped the organization hire additional staff members during this transition. 

CDP and REACH of Macon put their funding together to hire a victims’ advocate dedicated to providing services in Jackson County. The advocate provides direct services in both English and Spanish through education, court advocacy, resource referrals, and crisis counseling. 

Though the advocate is currently employed through REACH of Macon, the goal is for the position to transfer to CDP when it establishes itself as a stand-alone agency. 

“Another new REACH position to benefit Jackson County as well was funded through a rural advocacy grant. We hired one person for Macon and one for Jackson who will go into the most rural areas of the county and try to help people in those communities,” Anderson said. 

Destri Leger, who has experience working for REACH of Haywood as well, has been hired as the Jackson County Coordinator for CDP with funding from the Great Smokies Health Foundation.

Having those positions will hopefully make REACH and CDP’s services more visible and available for people in outlying areas of the county. CDP and REACH have also had an office in Sylva since October with three staff members, which will help people in Jackson access services. Anderson said it’s been a challenge for people in Jackson to understand they do not have to travel to Macon County to receive services.  

“In addition to new staff, REACH’s staff still provides services in both counties and the 24-hour emergency hotline is all being funded together,” she said.

 

Services

During the first phase of the transition, Anderson said CDP will solely focus on providing domestic violence services while REACH will continue to provide services for sexual assault victims. Without a shelter of its own, REACH’s shelter in Macon County will continue to service Jackson County clients as well. 

“A shelter for Jackson would be a second phase — not something we can do immediately,” Anderson said. “Shelters are expensive and take lot of staff to manage. As we build our capacity in Jackson County we can do it in conscious manner where we can continue to provide services as needed in a sustainable manner.”

Services provided for Jackson County is currently about 30 percent of REACH’s overall budget and the need has only increased over the last year. 

“Our numbers have gone up from 2017 to 2018 — we had a 25 percent increase in Jackson County clients, including women and kids and men too,” Leger said. 

REACH served 176 domestic violence victims and 50 sexual assault victims in Jackson County in the last year. Of those, 43 Jackson County clients received shelter stays in Macon County. While people tend to think everyone receiving services through REACH stays at the shelter, Anderson said the shelter is only one of many services people utilize. In the last year, REACH provided 7,844 unduplicated services to Jackson County residents and 502 shelter nights. 

 

Building awareness

Leger said one of the biggest challenges of starting a new organization is building up awareness and support in the community, but luckily CDP has enlisted some help from students at Western Carolina University. 

“Professor Farmer at WCU has a public relations class and they chose us for their student project,” she said. “We’ll talk about the best angle to publicizing our dual roles within the agencies as we move forward.”

Anderson said it will be important to have a consistent message and a streamlined process to make it easier for victims who are looking for services. 

So why not keep the REACH of Jackson County name since there’s already a REACH of Macon and REACH of Haywood? Anderson said the REACH name confuses people because they think all the organizations are tied together when they are all separate entities. 

“It’s very confusing because REACH is not a national organization, but also we wanted a fresh start. This is a new effort with new people and I think the messaging for CDP actually makes it very clear what about the mission,” Anderson said. 

There are two big fundraisers coming up — one to support REACH of Macon and one to raise funds and awareness for CDP. 

REACH will host its third annual Mardi Gras fundraiser on March 5 at Root + Barrel in downtown Franklin. Those unrestricted funds raised during that event helps with programs in both counties. Tickets are on sale now and sponsorship opportunities are available. 

If you aren’t interested in getting dressed up for a fun night out on the town, CDP’s inaugural Phantom Gala might be the better option for you. 

 “In lieu of an actual fundraiser, we’re inviting community members to fill out a donation card instead of having to get dressed up and go out and all those funds will directly to CDP,” Leger said. “It’s a low expense fundraiser but there are still sponsorship opportunities for businesses and individuals.”

CDP’s office is located at 26 Ridgeway Drive in Sylva. For more information, visit www.reachofmaconcounty.org or www.cdpjaxcountync.org.

For services, volunteer opportunities, or to make a donation, contact Center for Domestic Peace/REACH of Macon County at 828.586.8969.

 

Center for Domestic Peace Board of Directors

  • Heather Baker, Board President — Jackson County Attorney
  • Marsha Lee Baker, Vice President — former English professor at WCU
  • Tonya Vickery, Treasurer — Reverend at Cullowhee Baptist Church
  • Jennifer Abshire, Secretary — Director of Jackson County Department of Social Services
  • Robert Cochran — previous Director of Jackson County Department of Social Services, currently works with Jackson Homeless Program
  • Marilyn Chamberlin — former WCU professor, currently works with Jackson Homeless Program
  • Patsy Davis — Executive Director of Mountain Projects
  • Lane Perry — Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, WCU
  • Erica Bullock — Andy Shaw Ford in Sylva
  • Ali Laird-Large — School board member and local community activist
  • Mary Ann Lochner — Retired counsel at WCU
  • Shannon Queen — Jackson County Sheriff's Office
  • Andrea Anderson — Executive Director at REACH of Macon County

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