Summer is upon us. It feels good to be able to go for a walk outside, perhaps jog without a mask for the first time in a long while, perhaps get or give a hug, or meet up with a small group of close friends.
And during these summer months, we are talking a lot about our Reach for the Stars Gala event. The Gala committee is meeting, the ideas are flying, and the event planners are at the table. This summer, we are also talking about how to reopen our community office following 15 months of closure due to COVID. For the past 15 months, our staff has been delivering all our programs and services virtually. This is something we never thought possible and now we are trying to understand how to carry forward what we have learned and try to recapture what we have missed and love about our work together, with survivors and community partners, in shared spaces. This discussion about reopening the office and welcoming staff, survivors, volunteers, and others back into the space in a safe way, while mitigating harm, inspires a great deal of reflection among our development staff and the gala committee regarding the format for our event this year.
All of these discussions are guided by our values:
- We are all in this together.
- We care for ourselves and one another.
- How we do our work matters.
- We believe change is possible.
These values ground our decision making each day. Any decision about the best way to host our event must be rooted in a similar thoughtful discussion and decision-making process, because HOW we make these thoughtful decisions is extremely important to the health and wellbeing of the organization.
We care for ourselves and others – this includes colleagues and survivors, board members and other volunteers, as well as the dedicated community members and committed donors with whom we do this work. We are indeed all in this together, whether we are sharing space or not.
In classrooms and living rooms, we engage people of all ages in conversations about consent. Consent is freely given, enthusiastic, and specific – certainly for sexual activity – and this also applies as we move through this pandemic. Having the patience and compassion to ask what people need and want is essential to our work. With survivors, we don’t give orders, we provide options. We offer support and resources and respect that survivors are the experts in their own lives.
As we think about trying to host an in-person fundraising event, we recognize the various impact it can have on each of us. Decisions to vaccinate, fidelity to mask-wearing, these are encounters and questions that we do not have the ability or standing to ask, let alone guarantee. Can we – do we want to – bring people together without knowing who is vaccinated vs. who is not? Who is comfortable at a large function – and who is not? Will the hotel require their staff to be vaccinated? Would we be asked to require guests to show proof of vaccination? We are thinking about all of this.
Our conclusion is that hosting a virtual event again this year allows us to present this special evening in a safe and thoughtful way. A virtual event allows us to be inclusive and offer more equitable and accessible access to the festivities. The decision to host a virtual event conveys the care and concern we have for each other, and our commitment to promoting healthy and safe relationships.
If you have questions or want to talk about our decision and the process, please reach out to Jean (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Laura (email@example.com). And we hope that you will reach for the stars with us on November 4!
Change is possible. Together we will reach beyond domestic violence.