A is for a bit late. If I stretch this a little, it also counts for the sweater I’d intended to have finished by Christmas for my husband, which wasn’t finished until sometime a couple weeks after Christmas.
And also for my getting started on the gift for my cousin-in-law’s baby shower next week, and my sister’s birthday gift, which I need to finish before the Knitting Olympics begin.
A is also for advocacy, which I’m getting back into in a sort of different facet than my past advocacy work. As a board member for Houston County Women’s Resources, I’m not doing the type of direct-client-contact type work that I’ve done in the past (and, in fact, am prohibited from doing so with HCWR as long as I’m on the board to avoid potential conflict of interest). But I’m involved in helping to ensure that the agency stays financially viable and able to continue their work on behalf of women in the county.
HCWR is different from other agencies I’ve had experience with. The largest difference is the location – agencies I’ve worked with in the past have all been in more or less large cities that have been imbedded in larger networks of agencies that are to some extent co-dependent and cooperative. The work I did with the agency I was involved with was just one part of a larger system – a necessary part, but still just a part.
Houston County is a largely rural area – there are only 5 incorporated cities in the entire county, two of which I drive through on my way home from work and a third I live in. The terrain in between the towns is mostly farm land and the towns average about 12-15 miles from each other. La Crescent is actually the largest, population-wise (around 5,000 people), but it’s not much bigger than my town – which has a population of just under 3,000 people; the next to largest towns are both under 1,500 people. That’s a radically different scenario for social service work than anything I’ve ever been involved with.
For one, there’s a lot of difference in resource availability – both for the agency and for clients, who may not have transportation to get to resources or help. In the larger cities, while law enforcement may not always have been actively supportive, they were never directly hostile either. Here, there’s a lot more apathy on behalf of law enforcement when it comes to quick response to orders of protection, which are sometimes a victims of domestic violence’s only means of security.
The community at large is similarly apathetic – and in the past has been openly antagonistic to initiatives undertaken by the agency. Specifically, several years ago the agency began a transitional housing program for homeless victims of domestic abuse. It’s not a relocation program, but instead designed to help local women and their children learn to survive on their own. Many of the land owners in the areas where the transitional housing facility was established were rather vociferously opposed to having “those people” in their neighborhood, attending school with their children. That’s a level of open bigotry and hatred I’ve never confronted face-to-face, and I’m hoping that the community as a whole has evolved since then, but also have to be aware to tread with caution with my new neighbors.
We had our first board meeting for 2006 on Thursday, which included officer elections. I was decidedly ambivalent about whether I was ready to take on an officer position – on the one hand, I have several years of domestic violence advocacy experience and am a trained social worker, but on the other, I’m in completely foreign territory when it comes to the specifics of this agency and their clients. The board is relatively small – seven of us, I think, two of whom appear to be less-then-regularly-active (one has just gotten a new job in California and plans to “commute”.. not sure what that means exactly) – and with four officer positions, that means that over half the board is expected to take on a position of leadership. I feel a little guilty that I “dodged” an officer position at the meeting Thursday, but I think that in the end it is the right decision for me for now.
I did volunteer to chair the Housing committee – which is the committee of the board that deals most directly with the transitional housing program – as the main housing facilities are in the town we live in and I feel I can be more active with the staff in those facilities than others who live 20 or 30 miles away. I’m also a member of the Budget & Finance and Fundraising committees, which I feel a little more comfortable with given my past training and experience and knowledge of non-profit budgeting and fundraising.