It’s hard to believe but we are in the final hours of 2013, staring 2014 in the face. While it’s important to make New Year’s resolutions and look to the future (hint: stay tuned for next week’s blog), we thought we’d pause first to look back at 2013.
In January, we launched our blog and social media outreach through Facebook and Twitter. You have helped us grow our following to almost 200 people on each of those channels, and have shared, re-posted, and forwarded many of our blog posts to your friends and followers. What issues would you like to hear about in 2014? What questions do you have about domestic violence, healthy relationships, or strengthening community ties? Leave a comment below and tell us.
In February, we celebrated Waltham’s 2nd Annual “Say Hi to your Neighbors Week!” We know that abuse thrives in silence and that when we introduce ourselves to our neighbors, we break down the isolation that domestic violence survivors feel and let them know that a friendly face is right next door. Folks who live and work in Waltham said hi to one another 2,654 times, and recorded each one on our interactive map.
In March, a REACH Advocate and several participants in our “Latinas Know Your Rights” program traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of a national campaign to raise awareness about the effects that misguided immigration policies can have on families, particularly families who have experienced domestic violence.
April brought the Greater Boston community together in response to the Marathon bombings, and we watched from our homes and together with our shelter residents as the manhunt for the suspects closed our office in Waltham.
In June we gathered with friends and supporters for our Annual Meeting, where we heard an inspiring story from a member of our Survivor Speakers’ Bureau and presented the Voice for Justice Awards to three remarkable people who are each making their communities healthier in different ways.
Over the summer, domestic violence was in the headlines in our hometown of Waltham as the former Police Chief was found guilty for the 2012 assault of his wife, and the city was stunned by the murder of Jennifer Martel. REACH responded to these incidents both publicly, by answering requests for media interviews, and privately by processing with community members.
In October, REACH organized a forum in Waltham to discuss ways to prevent domestic violence. David Adams from Emerge (an abuser education program), Shawn MacMaster from the Middlesex DA’s office, Detective McGann from the Waltham Police Department, and our own Director of Prevention Programs Jessica Hollander spoke from their unique perspectives about what domestic violence looks like and how we as friends and neighbors can support those who might be experiencing it. It is a conversation we hope will continue.
October also brought us the 4th Annual Waltham Neighborhoods Fall Festival, which brought community members out on a Saturday afternoon to get to know one another and hear some great music, and the 10th Annual Reach for the Stars Gala. After a few very nerve-wracking days when our first venue canceled on us due to the government shutdown, the gala went on at the Castle at Park Plaza. More than $300,000 was raised by our loyal donors who followed us to the new location and battled Red Sox game traffic to be there with us.
November brought domestic violence back to the headlines with the tragic murder of Mei Kum Li and her sons Colt and Cameron. We grieved with the community of Arlington and continue to work with residents there to raise awareness about REACH’s services and what friends and neighbors can do to support those who might be experiencing abuse.
In December, you (REACH’s donors and supporters) have overwhelmed us with your generosity. You helped us provide gifts for 223 families through the Holiday Program, and as of the writing of this blog, you have brought us very close to reaching our year-end giving goal of $90,000.
Throughout the year, we also provided classroom-based education and peer leadership activities for thousands of area high school students, and facilitated workshops and trainings for businesses, faith groups, and community organizations through our Prevention Programs.
These are just the stories we can tell you. What you don’t see is the tireless work of our advocates that takes place in our Shelter and Community Programs – the hours that are spent safety-planning, standing in court, driving survivors to and from medical appointments, housing offices, and the Department of Transitional Assistance. You won’t hear the conversations that happen in the middle of the night when our overnight staff answers the hotline. We can’t show you the faces of the kids who have seen things no child should see, but who are learning to laugh and play again with the help of our Child and Adolescent Therapist. Much of what we do remains, by necessity, surrounded by a cloud of secrecy because the danger is still out there and it is real. But at the end of a year like this, we draw strength from the stories of survivor speakers, from the teens who are standing up for healthy relationships, from the community members who come together in times of tragedy and refuse to let it have the last word, and from the support of our friends and allies in the work to build healthy communities. Together we will continue to reach beyond domestic violence in 2014.
Wishing you a Safe and Happy New Year from all of us at REACH!