Saturday, August 19, 2017

They Carry A Purple Purse for the Kids!

Everyone who hadsever been on Wellspring's board of directors can quote something that I say so often, "I want to be out of a job!" But I very quickly follow up with the words, "Because we've achieved our goal of ending relationship and sexual abuse." Working with youth to promote healthy relationships and consent is key to decreasing the risk they'll ever experience dating violence or sexual victimization.  I'm not the only one who sees the prevention education and social change work  Wellspring does with youth as important. Here are some community members whose words about the importance of focusing on youth inspire me every day.

 "We need to protect the welfare of our children." Click here to learn what Marcie Frasier's research uncovered about the correlation between exposure to domestic violence  and the risk of alcohol or drug use, obesity and bullying.

While Tara Pleat sees a community of young individuals who are impressionable,  she's hopeful because, "We have a community that's not afraid to talk about these issues." Click here to learn more about why she has passionately dedicated 15 years to Wellspring's mission.

Elaine Anton-Lutruglio  coaches girls lacrosse, for one very obvious reason, "I love the girls I work with", so much so that she's not rocking just one, but 5 purple purses. Click here for her observations on youth and dating violence.

I'm Keshi...
watch the video to see what my name stands for.
So if Marcie, Tara and Elaine inspired you, here's something you can do today. Do you know someone who has a high school or college aged son or daughter? Share this video with them, so they'll know how to help someone in need. Local Skidmore students shared what they wished they'd known before they headed off to college.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Allstate's Purple Purse Challenge

I've been seeing purple lately...purple purses.

John Lofrumento explains that more women experience domestic violence
than breast, ovarian and lung cancers combined..
Once again Wellspring is participating in Allstate's Purple Purse Challenge. What's the Purple Purse Challenge? Watch here as John Lofrumento explains Allstate's passion for assisting domestic violence survivors toward economic empowerment. 

Last year our local donors gave more than $51,000 to Wellspring's Purple Purse campaign, earning Wellspring 5th place in the nation and $26,000 in bonus funds from Allstate that we used for survivor services and prevention programs in our community.
This year we're participating in the Purple Purse Challege once again... and our goal is to show that the people in our community are #1 in the country in caring about and working toward Wellspring's vision of ending relationship and sexual abuse.

Here's what you need to know about the Purple Purse Challenge:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Talking with teens about consent

As we send our kids off to college, teens and parents have  dreams and expectations. Dreams for an education that leads to a career and stable life. Dreams for learning more about something that really interests you (instead of the basic curriculum that everyone took in high school.) Dreams of a new beginning where you can be the person you are now... without everyone else remembering the person you were 10 years ago.  Dreams of freedom from curfews and parental oversight (and on the parent side, freedom from those regular battles.) It's an exciting time with new beginnings, new opportunities, new peer groups and new freedoms.

And it can also be a risky time-- for sexual victimization. In fact, the period from freshman orientation until Thanksgiving break is called the Red Zone, as it's the period with the highest incidence of campus sexual assault. So it's important to talk with your daughters-- and your sons-- about consent before sending them off to college. So here are some talking points to help you with that discussion.... and to make it even easier we've got a quick video just for parents about why and how to talk with your teen about consent.
What is consent? Consent is “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. When sex is consensual, it means everyone involved has agreed to what they are doing and has given their permission. Non-consensual sex, or sex without someone’s agreement or permission, is sexual assault. Some important things to know about consent:
  • Drugs and alcohol blur consent. Drugs and alcohol impact decision making. When drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained. In many states, an intoxicated person cannot legally give consent.
  • Consent needs to be clear. Consent is more than not hearing the word “no.” A partner saying nothing is not the same as a partner saying “yes.” Don’t rely on body language, past sexual interactions or any other non-verbal cues. Never assume you have consent. Always be sure you have consent.
  •  Consent can be fun. Consent does not have to be something that “ruins the mood.” In fact, clear and enthusiastic consent can actually enhance sexual interactions. Not only does it allow one to know that their partner is comfortable with the interaction, it lets both partners clearly express what they want.
  •   Consent is specific. Just because someone consents to one set of actions and activities does not mean consent has been given to any other sexual act. Similarly, if a partner has given consent in the past to sexual activity this does not apply to current or future interactions. Consent can be initially given and later withdrawn.

[1] All content regarding consent is taken directly from the National Sexual Violence resource Center and retrieved from http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/SAAM_2012_Consent.pdf on August 3, 2016.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sending your son or daughter of to college soon?

Going off to college can be a big step. Wellspring talked with current Skidmore College students to find out what they wish they had known before arriving on campus, and how they have acted - or did not act - when they thought someone needed help.  From these interviews, Wellspring formulated a video to give teens the tools those students wish they had had. Have your teen watch our video to learn more about how they can contribute to the safety of their upcoming home away from home.
Check out our video together and find out how and why Keshi  is giving youth the tools to create social change.

Why social change is important

As a society, we should always be striving to do better; and as individuals within society, it is our moral obligation to contribute to making our community healthy and safe for everyone. These efforts include working to engage others within the community to end relationship and sexual abuse.  Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct (SGBM) on college campuses is a nationwide epidemic in the United States, and efforts to combat these crimes begin long before individuals arrive on campus. Our goal at Wellspring is to empower young people with the information and skills necessary to identify and intervene when they witness a potential SGBM incident. 


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Reminder in the Mirror

I was talking to a domestic violence survivor today. She experienced years of physical and emotional abuse, but 

had the strength and courage to break free and build a new life. We talked about how blessed she feels now, being safe... but there's one thing keeping her from letting go of the haunting memories of the abuse. The mirror. She has scars from numerous abusive incidents and each time she looks in the mirror she's reminded of the actions that left that mark on her body, "The scars are a daily reminder of horrible abuse; they make it hard to be comfortable in my skin and truly have a fresh start."

Advocates aren't the only ones who hear these stories of relived trauma as someone looks in the mirror. Dr. Edwin Williams, a board certified plastic surgeon and owner of The Williams Center has long supported the work of  Wellspring and other domestic violence agencies. In fact their website has a page dedicated to providing a caring response and information for survivors of domestic violence. Below is information from their site.

Whether you are currently in an abusive relationship or still struggling with the memories of past abuse, we can help. Call Wellspring at 518.583.0280 or our 24 hour hotline at 518.584.8188

Domestic Violence

  • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
This violence spans across all racial, ethnic, religious, educational and socioeconomic lines. Over five million women a year are affected by domestic violence in the United States; over one million victims require medical treatment. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Since 1994 Dr. Edwin Williams a board certified facial plastic surgeon has offered complimentary consultations and cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery to victims of domestic violence. As a participating surgeon in the program Face to Face, developed with the national coalition against Domestic Violence, Dr. Edwin Williams along with other facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons throughout the country take a firm stand against domestic violence. Over the past several years Dr. Edwin Williams has helped many women remove the remaining scars caused by an abusive partner. Those wishing to be considered for the complimentary consultations and cosmetic and reconstructive surgery to victims of domestic violence, must meet certain criteria including proof of being out of the abusive relationship for at least one year.
Dr. Edwin Williams hopes that his efforts will bring attention to the issue of domestic violence. It makes him feel good to be able to help these women so that they may feel better about themselves and reclaim their lives to move past the damage that has been done to them. The toll free number is 1-800-842-4546.For news stories featuring Dr. Edwin Williams’ treating domestic violence patients click here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sowing Seeds to Start a Conversation about Relationship Abuse

I planted my garden about 10 days ago. While everyone else is complaining miserably about the rain, I’m a little excited (especially when it rains during the week not on the weekend) as I’m sure that with the moisture all my seeds have germinated and probably new shoots are pushing up through the soil right now.  Gardening from seeds takes patience and trust to give the sun time to warm the soil, the seedling time to take root and simply time to grow.  While I don’t like the wait, over the years I’ve come to appreciate the process and accept that I can’t always control the outcome. Like last year’s abundant squash patch that seemingly overnight was decimated by powdery mildew.

Sometimes these small scale dramas in the garden, remind me of the much more significant struggles people face when someone they love is experiencing domestic violence. Often the victim of abuse doesn’t recognize the behaviors his/her partner’s actions as abusive… especially we when the abuse isn’t physical.  Sometimes just talking to your loved one and letting them know you’re concerned is like planting that seed. They may seem to totally ignore your words, but like the week of straight rain we just endured that helps my seeds germinate, under the right conditions your words may begin to root.

The decision to seek support is rarely immediate. Here are some of the reasons people give for not seeking help:

·         “It’s not that bad.” Often this is followed by words like, “It’s rarely physical” or “It’s nothing like I’ve seen in the movies” or “He/she always apologizes and says it won’t happen again.”

·         “It’s not a crisis, I don’t need to call a hotline.”

·         “I wouldn’t feel right calling a place like Wellspring. Other people need their help so much more than I do.”

·         “I really don’t see any way out.” Or “I’m not ready to make a change yet. I’ll call them when that time comes.”

·         It’s not that I’m afraid of my partner; I just have to do a better job not aggravating him/her.”

·         “They help domestic violence victims… I’m not a victim.” Often the person will explain, that they’re occasionally abusive too, e.g., “Sometimes I yell or call him/her awful names… and I’ve hit back so I’m just as guilty of abuse.”  

If you’ve heard any of these statements, here’s what I’d like you to know, so you have the words to help your friend:

You don’t need to be in a crisis. You don’t need to be in danger or living in fear. You don’t need to wait in until a crisis where you don’t have anywhere else to turn before you call us… in fact, at Wellspring, we hope that calling us sooner may mean you never experience that crisis. We so often hear survivors saying, “I used to always feel like I was walking on eggshells at home.” Yes, they kept the abuse from escalating… by continually living in a state of hyper-vigilance. Our agency is a place where you can talk about these feelings. We can help you create a safety plan, but we can also be a safe place where you give voice to those feelings you don’t speak out loud… maybe not even to yourself. Our services are free and confidential… and they’re for everyone. There’s no income eligibly guidelines for our services.

You don’t need to be preparing to leave to seek our services. In fact, we have many survivors who remain in the relationship. They come to us to understand how to increase their safety, to know what their legal rights/ options/resources are if needed, or to build their economic stability or support systems so even if they’re remaining in the relationship they’re not doing so because they feel trapped. Many people understand that we offer a hotline and shelter, but they’re unaware of the other services we offer: financial literacy training to support economic stability, rent subsidized housing, legal advocacy, 911 phones, and assistance with accessing employment, childcare, housing, transportation, or other basic needs. Because it takes time to be on solid ground financially after leaving abuse, supports like our food pantry, personal care items, Backpacks of Hope (school supplies to start the new year) and New Beginnings Baskets (filled with necessary household items) can help survivors make a fresh start or support them until they finally feel stable and secure.

Survivors may judge their own reactions, verbal or physical as indicators that they too are abusive. Some relationships are indeed mutually abusive. But in domestic violence there is an underlying power and control dynamic. Does that mean the victim is always cowering, helplessly… no. Survivors may, in defense, frustration or anger, lash out sometimes. To determine if domestic violence exists one needs to ask is there an ongoing pattern of control, either through emotional, psychological, physical, or financial abuse, or social isolation. It’s the pattern of power and control… not necessarily an isolated behavior.

 So if the examples above sound like behaviors you recognize in the relationship, call us. If you weren’t sure how to talk to someone you love about domestic violence, hopefully this information will help you start the conversation.  Sometimes hearing someone say, “I care and I’m worried” plants a seed that in time leads to a future without fear. If you’re not sure how to talk to someone about relationship abuse, call us --we can help you understand, know about resources and start the conversation.
If you or someone you know has experienced relationship or sexual abuse, call us.
Office 518.583.0280
24/7 hotline 518.584.8188

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Soroptimist - The Gardens May be Secret, but the Club Is Getting Noticed

This seems to be a busy week for Soroptimist news. Yesterday I posted about their recent recognition at the Regional level for Project Hope and Power. And now  3 more exciting announcements!

Today I attended Saratoga Today's Women of Influence luncheon, where longtime Soroptimist Lyn Whaley  was honored for all she's done for our community:
  • her many leadership roles over the past 17 years in the Saratoga Springs School District
  • running a family business, Cudney's Cleaners that gives back so much to the community
  • her commitment to her faith community, and
  • of course her volunteerism and leadership in Soroptimist. On behalf of  all our Soroptimist club members, I can say we're  all proud of Lyn's accomplishments and delighted she's been recognized as a Woman of Influence.

Secret Gardens Trou 2017While most of us an only aspire to be as impactful as Lyn, here's a couple of easy ways we can all support women and girls. Soroptimist International of Saratoga County has been supporting Wellspring's mission since the founding of the agency. The Club's signature service project is a collaborative initiative with Wellspring, a financial literacy program, Project Hope and Power, that has benefited more than 600 women since 2005. Soroptimist provides financial support for Project Hope and Power, plus more than $45,000 to  other programs locally and globally  that benefit women and girls. They've got 2 great fundraisers coming up;  a  benefit book fair at Northshire Bookstore   and their Secret Garden Tour. So buy that book you've been thinking about and catch up on your summer reading or tour some wonderful local gardens... and help women and girls at the same time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Giving Hope... Giving Power-- That's Soroptimist

I'm proud to have been a Soroptimist for the past 11 years. What's Soroptimist? It's an international service organization dedicated to  improving the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Need a simpler explanation-- Soroptimist  promotes what's Best for  Women.

The Club quietly does really impressive work in our local community but also globally. This year alone the Club has provided more than $45,000 in project support to 22 organizations benefiting women and girls. Local organizations supported included: the Adult and Senior Center of Saratoga, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Council, Ballston Area Community Center, Bridging People and Places, Camp Abilities, Dance Alliance (MOVE), Fast Break Fund, Franklin Community Center, Habitat for Humanity, Jr Achievement, Literacy NENY, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, Saratoga Center for the Family, Saratoga County EOC, Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning, Saratoga Regional YMCA, Saratoga War Horse, Shelters of Saratoga, Soul Saving Station, To Life! Inc., Wellspring, and Wilton Wildlife Preserve.
Project Hope and Power tri-chairs Maggie, Laurie and Alice with Club president Charlotte
displaying our 2017 Celebrating Success Award from the North Atlantic region
Like many local organizations, Soroptimist International of Saratoga County works tirelessly, but very quietly, fulfilling their mission without much fanfare. Their efforts don't go unnoticed though. Recently our Club was presented the North Atlantic Region's Celebrating Success Award for its exemplary work helping women achieve financial empowerment, through their signature service project, Project Hope and Power.  Today, more than 600 women have achieved housing, employment and improved financial stability by participating in Project Hope and Power.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tee off to Support TSA

One of my favorite things about working in this community is how intensively all our human service agencies collaborate. We address a range of social issues and human needs that at time can seem daunting... but by working together we maximize our resources to help the most people with limited funds. Because we work so closely, I'm blessed to experience firsthand every day the fine work of partner agencies.
With the warm weather finally here, I know many folks thoughts are returning to their golf game. So here's a chance to get back on the green... and support a nonprofit organization that offers assistance every day to some of our most vulnerable citizens.                           
For over 40 years, Transitional Services Association (TSA)  has provided a broad range of residential support and care management services to adults with psychiatric disabilities and/or substance use disorders, and abused & neglected children. Today, TSA is staffed by approximately 100 employees, and provides services to more than 400 clients in our community.  On September 11, 2017 TSA will hold its 7th Annual Golf Tournament, the proceeds of which will directly support and enhance our ability to provide recovery and support services to the people we serve.
I hear they've arranged for  excellent weather, so gather your foursome for a great day of golf while supporting TSA.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Tragedy in Hadley Starts the Conversation

As the news broke today that the husband of the woman found dead in Hadley last week has been arrested, I’ve had many people calling me with questions or just talking about how tragic and unbelievable this is. So here are some of the things we’ve been talking about today:


·        Domestic violence is far more prevalent than most of us think. In fact 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men ae a victimized during the course of their lives. In Saratoga County, it’s the #2 violent crime  (second only to drunk or drugged driving), the primary cause of family homelessness, and the primary cause of homicide. People are really surprised when I give these statistics, often stating that they’ve never known anyone who has experienced domestic violence. Chances are good you do… you just may know it. Often we’re looking for obvious physical indicators, like black eyes or bruises. Abuse tactics like emotional or psychological control, social isolation, financial control, and sexual abuse aren’t as easily identified.  In fact, victims themselves may minimize the abuse, “Well, I’ve never been hit so this isn’t domestic violence”, or “I read a news story about what one woman experienced. What I’m experiencing isn’t that bad.” Some highly abusive relationships never have any physical abuse; don’t let this be the standard that keeps you from seeking help.

·        “I’m not in a crisis and I’m not thinking of leaving the relationship, so there’s no need to seek support.” Wellspring’s advocates and our 24/7 hotline (518-584-8188) can help in a crisis, but we’re also there simply when you need to talk. Many clients choose to remain in the relationship; they just want to explore their options, and plan for how to be safe in their relationship.

·        “He’s such a good dad (or she’s such a good mom); the children are better off if we’re together.” Roughly 50% of abusers target their partner, but do not abuse the children directly. Frequently in these situations the parent who is being victimized reasons that the children aren’t affected by the abuse. Often that view changes when the children approach their teens and either they act abusively in their relationships…or are the targets of abuse by a dating partner. While they may not have been directly abused, the children’s understanding of a healthy relationship is shaped by what they see in the home.

·         “I can provide a better life for my kids if I stay.”  Sometimes that parent worries that (s)he couldn’t provide for the basic needs, rent, food, and healthcare.  Supporting a family on one income is a challenge. Wellspring’s advocates can help with petitions for temporary support… and our NewView Housing Program provides a rent subsidy and in-home support services for up to 24 months so that victims can leave abuse to safe homes.

·         “I’m still not sure if I should call.” Ask yourself the following questions.


Does Your Partner:

·        Make you feel afraid much of the time?

·        Act excessively jealous and possessive?

·        Control where you go or what you do?

·        Keep you from seeing your friends and/or family?

·        Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?

·        Threaten to take your children away?

·        Limit your access to money or things like the phone or car?


If this sounds like you or someone you know, call us. We can help.

Office: 518-583-0280

24 hour hotline  518-584-8188



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Try Thai Next Thursday!

Once again our friends at Bodyworks Professionals are offering a way to feel great while also supporting the work of Wellspring. If you've never tried Thai massage, don't miss the chance!
The  folks at Bodyworks Professionals are great at relaxing tired muscles... and they're really generous. They're giving 100% of your donation to Wellspring to help with our mission to end relationship and sexual abuse.

So give yourself a well deserved treat on Thursday April 27th... and thanks for supporting our work!

Monday, April 17, 2017

This Mothers' Day

Today's blog post is by one of Wellspring's advocates. She shares her thoughts about Mothers' Day as someone who daily hears about how mothers are impacted by domestic violence. 
This Mothers’ Day, we at Wellspring think of our clients who are doing the heartbreaking work of being in an abusive and relationship while parenting their children.  Every day, we hear the worries, concerns and sadness that comes from trying to keep children safe (as well as themselves) when a partner is abusive and controlling.  Leaving the relationship also causes so much turmoil as they must grieve the loss of an intact family, and now navigate the difficult waters of custody and family court.  It is not uncommon for abusers to use children to try to continue to control and punish their partner for leaving.   The strength of these clients is inspiring and on the other side is safety and peace.  So we would like to say Happy Mothers’ Day to all and we will continue our work to support moms who come to us for support and information. Their words touch us and inspire us, every day:

“I feel so sad for my kids…”      “I feel like he is always using the kids, to punish me.”    “My kids come first… I don’t want them to think this is the way men should treat women.”   “My son is beginning to act like my husband…. I know I need to get out and I need to do it safely.”  “Thanks for all your help, I now see a bright future for me and my kids.”    “I really wouldn’t be where I am today without Wellspring’s help. I have my own apartment, my kids are doing awesome and I am moving on.”

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ladies' Day at Artisinal Brew Works Saturday, March 25th

It's cold out, March is hanging on, and the weatherman just dashed your dreams of a sunny warm weekend. Don't lose hope, there's still an opportunity to rescue your weekend fun. Come to  Artisanal Brew Works from noon-3 on Saturday for their Ladies' Day event. In addition to great craft beers, there will be massages, aromatherapy, and vendors including: Jerry's Jewels, Lu Lu Roe, Arbonne and more.

So join us at 41 Geyser Road, Saratoga Springs on Saturday March 25th from noon-3. Do a little shopping, catch up with friends, and get warm from the inside out...  may I suggest their just-released Belgian Red?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Parents: It affects 1 in 3 Teens. Would you recognize it?

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Did you know, 1 in 3 teens experience some form of dating violence? They're often reluctant to tell their parents or  teachers. Would you recognize the signs?

Soroptimist International, an organization devoted to helping girls locally and across the world,  reports that "82% of parents felt confident they'd be able to tell if their teen was in an abusive relationship, but less than HALF of these parents could correctly identify the signs of teen dating abuse." They've created a an infographic with information about identifying dating violence, talking to your teen (or his/her friends) about it, and supporting a teen who has experience dating violence. You can also sign up here for other resources such as a video for parents and tips to take action to help teens.

Need some resources to  share with the teens you know? Love is respect has 2 quick quizzes :

If you are a teen who is experiencing dating violence ... or if you are a parent or friend of someone and you're concerned they may be-- call Wellspring at 518-583-0280. All services are free and confidential.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cantina's donating 33% to help Wellspring get to zero

Dining out fundraiser for Wellspring

Join us at Cantina at 430 Broadway in  Saratoga Springs on February 8 anytime from 11:30-9  for lunch or dinner. Cantina is generously donating 33% of proceeds in support of Wellspring's work to end relationship and sexual abuse in our community.

Feeling more like a night in with the family? That's OK. Treat yourself to take out from Cantina and a relaxed family dinner at home.

If you're planning on dining in, reservations are recommended, so you don't have to wait.

Your support brings Wellspring closer to our vision of a community without abuse.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Move Aside Mr. Groundhog

So February has some important dates to remember:
Valentines Day (14th)
Bartenders' Ball  (11th- show up to support this year's recipient CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services)
Presidents' Day (20th ...and start of a school break for many)...
and of course
Groundhog Day (2nd... we haven't really had winter yet, but I'd be OK with an early spring).

So tomorrow we'll be talking about whether the groundhog predicts an early spring or more winter, but here's something to think about all month long. It's Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Talk to your kids about signs of abuse in a relationship... and what constitutes a health relationship. At Wellspring, we want everyone to have healthy relationships. Sometimes it's confusing to discern when everyday behaviors cross the line into controlling. This month we'll be sharing some tools to increase awareness, start the conversation, and give you some resources if needed.  Let's start with discussing boundaries and consent.

Not every healthy relationship looks the same.  However, every healthy relationship does need safe communication, trust, boundaries, and mutual respect. Being on the same page is important, you want  to make sure that both you and your partner want and expect the same things.  Everyone should feel comfortable setting boundaries as they see fit, and these boundaries may change or adjust as the relationship evolves. Having open communication regarding your boundaries in a relationship creates respect and ensures that  each person’s needs are  being met. Check out Wellspring's video about consent to start the conversation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Need hope? Look around.

Commitment to social justice knows no age limits. On Monday, I attended a leadership training coordinated by Youth2. There I saw teens discussing concerns for the environment, women’s rights, poverty, homelessness and hunger, and global issues of injustice. They didn’t only talk about these concerns, but brainstormed ways they could take an active role in addressing these problems… learning how to be “solutionaries”.
I don’t remember, when I was 16, spending a school holiday trying to strategize how I  could make a difference in a global problem. Even walking out of the training, looking at the tee shirt on the Y2 member ahead of me in line, their passion inspired me.
This morning I opened the paper and read that Mary Jane Smith, one of the founders of  Unity House, had passed  away. I started my career in human services more than three decades ago (gasp- wow I don't often do that math!) at Unity House's sister agency, Mohawk Opportunities. While we met briefly many decades ago, Mary Jane didn't know me... but over the years I've watched Unity House grow and seen firsthand the positive impact their programs have had on so many lives.
As we look at the human service organizations locally, we often forget their humble beginnings 3, 4,or 5 decades ago. Many of them, Wellspring included, began because a few concerned citizens gathered and started talking about a  local issue and just like those teens at the  Youthtraining began brainstorming a plan they could implement to address a local need. It didn't escape my notice that the article about Mary Jane had a picture of her taken last year, still volunteering serving lunch to those in need at the age of 87.
Like so many of our inspiring local leaders whom we've recently lost, e.g., Denny Brunelle, former executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (and leader on many of our local initiatives to help those in need), or Anne Palamountain, philanthropist and founding member of many local nonprofit initiatives, including Wellspring's rape crisis services, they began working to help others early in adulthood and continued to do so throughout their lives, never tiring in their commitment to those in need and to our community. I'm humbled by their compassion, generosity and leadership and grateful for their impact.  I'm also inspired as I look at a new generation of youth just as committed to making this world a better  place.
Reading the news every day, it's easy to feel hopeless. The headlines make me wonder if our challenges are overwhelming and our leaders aren't able to address the needs of the people... but when I look up from my computer screen at what people are doing, I'm inspired and hopeful. Together we can make a difference. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Can We Learn From Tragedy?

While 2017 started bright with promise for most of us, for five people the year ended tragically almost as soon as it began. When we're bombarded with news stories about mass violence, we can get caught in the details (e.g., how many people, how did it happen, what were the motives) and lose sight of  the human impact. The Washington Post presents a brief snapshot into the people who were gunned down in the shooting in Fort Lauderdale that took the lives of 5 people, among them:
a father of 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren who was a devoted husband of 40+ years
a great grandma with a lilting British accent who was active in her faith community
a business owner whose open heart extended to adopting a large active black lab  with a missing leg, and 
a mom of 3 and grandma to 6 who was just weeks away from her 51st anniversary.

These are such senseless tragedies and when they suddenly pop on our news screens, we're struck by the unpredictability of this type of violence.

Click here to view an interesting
animation of 9 key factors
While we may not be able to accurately predict when and where the next mass shooting will happen, there are some strong correlates... and a big one is domestic violence. Using FBI data and media reports, Everytown for Gun Safety did an analysis of mass shooting (click here to read the report or  here to view an interesting animation of 9 key factors).
Here are three correlates that may surprise you:

Domestic Violence- In 57% of mass shootings, the shooter killed a current/former partner  of family member, and in more than 15% of cases the shooter had a previous domestic violence charge.

Private Residence- 70% of mass shootings (defined as an incident in which 4 or more people, not including the shooter are killed with a gun) took place in private residences, not public spaces.

Percent and Frequency- Mass shootings represent less than 1% of gun  homicides and occur fairly regularly with no more than 3 months between tragedies.

And here's one correlate that's not as strong as many would expect:

Mental Illness- In only 11% of shootings had concerns been brought to a professional prior to the rampage... and in less than 1% was the shooter prohibited from owning guns due to severe mental illness.

What can we learn from this? While the large scale public massacres command media attention, gun violence isn't limited to these events-- in fact, many mass shootings take place in homes, against family members, and fairly regularly. The correlates between domestic violence and homicide are unmistakable. I've always viewed law enforcement's response  to domestic violence as homicide prevention. I'm not by any means implying that every instance of domestic violence may escalate to a homicide, but rather that taking domestic violence seriously, assessing the  pattern of power and control, and paying attention to key indicators (e.g., threats to kills the victim or instances of strangulation, i.e., "choking" the victim) that increase risk to lethality-- these are strategies that can reduce the  possibility that domestic violence will escalate to tragic, fatal consequences.

If you or someone you know
is experiencing domestic violence call Wellspring:
Office 518-583-0280
24/7 Hotline 518-584-8188

Know the tactics  of power and control that underlie domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, talk to a domestic violence advocate to know your options. There's so much we can't predict ... here's one thing we can do to reduce the likelihood of mass violence.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Karma, Recycling, and Ending Abuse

Happy New Year. 

This could be the easiest New year's resolution ever!
Whether you are a resolution-maker or not, you're probably bombarded by articles about creating change: weight loss plans, fitness programs,  financial planning strategies, tips to get organized...  programs for every type of resolution. Yet by this weekend a quarter of folks will have lost the resolve in their resolutions. Why? Expectations too big? Not truly committed to the goal? Life provided a reality check? Seemingly overnight, big plans become no plans. Its good to think big, but maybe we get to the end goal quicker with small steps.  

Today a colleague shared a quote that made me stop and think about all those abandoned resolutions,

And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing
 I do better making changes really stick when I pick something easily doable and make it an ingrained part of my daily routine. You all know I'm committed to ending relationship and sexual abuse. I'm also really concerned about our environment... but I'm not always 100% with the 'reduce, reuse and recycle' mantra. But every year I pick one practice I will commit to so I will be I kinder to Mother Earth. Several years ago taking the recyclables to the transfer station, I noted how many empty laundry detergent bottles we had and got to thinking about not only the toxic chemicals in those bottles, but the energy used to transport them, the processing to make the bottles, and the possibility that a portion of them wind up in landfills leaving a permanent legacy of disrespect for the environment. I started making my own laundry detergent and haven't bought prepackaged laundry soap in years. It takes only a couple of minutes and the only waste is a paper wrapper from the Fels Naptha soap bar and 2 cardboard boxes (one  Borax and one washing soda)-- these I use to start the fire in my woodstove that heats our house all winter. It's not much but over those years  I've reduced the number of plastic bottles passing through our house by hundreds...and I've kept at it because it was a simple commitment (bonus points because it's cheaper than bottled laundry detergent, has no perfumes or dyes and works just as well). 
Each year at Christmas I look at the pile of pretty wrapping paper that gets crumpled up and put in the trash (can't burn this because of all the glossy paper with colored dyes). So this year I 'wrapped' my gifts in reusable shopping bags. It cost less than fancy paper
and was a little extra 'gift' for the recipient. Perhaps they'll think of Christmas when they're grocery shopping. I had fun all last year picking up the perfect bag with decorations suited to each  person in my life... but on December 25th my supply was gone. Well Hannaford just came to the rescue.
Throughout January, at the Hannaford store located at:
95 Weibel Avenue, Saratoga Springs NY,
Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program has focused on supporting:
Hannaford is donating a portion of sales  of every good karma bag to Wellspring. So stock up- save the planet- and support our work toward community free of relationship and sexual abuse. "One gesture. One person. One moment at a time."
~ Every day counts ~