I have a very special blog post this week!
Allison (Alli) O’Malley, the Executive Director of RESOLVE (in Greater
Rochester, NY), has agreed to be interviewed. RESOLVE is formerly known as Safe Journey. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she’s had a busy schedule. I appreciate her taking the time to be interviewed. I’ve broken the interview down into two blog posts because of the length.
Question: How did Safe Journey start and develop into the strong organization it is today?
Alli: Safe Journey opened in 1998 as an outreach ministry of the
Ecumenical Ministries of Perinton, Inc. Perinton is an affluent suburb of
Rochester, NY, and the vision for the ministry at inception was to provide
services to suburban women who were experiencing domestic violence and did not
consider an urban domestic violence program to be an option for their situation.
Initially, the plan was to open a small shelter, but feedback from the first few
clients indicated that they had other options for temporary living and that what
they really needed was counseling and supportive services to help them make
informed decisions about their situations. They also expressed needing support
to rebuild their lives after leaving their violent or abusive husbands. As a
result, Safe Journey became a non-residential transition program for domestic
violence victims and survivors. The organization offered counseling, case
management, support group, community referrals, court advocacy, special group
events (holiday support, creative arts therapies, make overs, etc…), and
furniture. On the rare occasion when emergency shelter was deemed necessary for
a woman’s safety, referrals were made to other organizations. Although we were
categorized as a ministry, Safe Journey has never incorporated religious
doctrine into our work for all too often this doctrine has been used to oppress victimized women and falsely encourage them to accept violent or abusive relationships. However, our roots in ministry have influenced our service delivery, allowing clients who needed to explore what leaving means in the context of their faith to do so. It also influences our staff, who views every courageous woman who enters our door as a child of God and therefore mandates that we meet each one with dignity and grace.
While the churches in Perinton provided the nonprofit operating structure for Safe Journey, they only partially funded ministry operations. The balance of funds needed came from private donors, other faith-based organizations, and a small amount from private and corporate foundations. In 2008, Safe Journey was forced to suspend operations due to a financial crisis. An ambitious growth plan did not anticipate the nation’s recession, which hurt giving in every segment. After six months of
restructuring, Safe Journey reopened in January 2009. The restructuring process
reinvigorated the ministry and stimulated giving. Client intake rates for the
ministry doubled year over year from 2009 to 2011, then again grew by 50% in
2012. During the same 4 year period, income grew from $62,000 to $140,000.
The ministry’s growth prompted a change in business structure. On July 1, 2012, Safe Journey left the Ecumenical Ministries of Perinton, Inc., and merged with Stand Up Guys, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence by engaging with men as allies. The newly formed corporation is known as RESOLVE of Greater Rochester. Safe Journey’s intervention programs and service continue operating in support of suburban domestic violence victims and Stand Up Guys prevention programs are focused on college-aged men.
What services does Safe Journey (RESOLVE) offer?
Alli: Today, Safe Journey offers trauma-informed, strengths-based
individual counseling services, support group, court advocacy, personal
empowerment programs (yoga to relieve stress/anxiety, day long retreats that
foster independence/personal leadership, healing through creative arts),
individual financial counseling, and a resettlement and furniture program.
In addition, RESOLVE staff provides prevention and awareness education programs throughout the community to adults in various settings as well as youth in middle/high schools, faith-based youth groups, scout troops, and on college campuses.
What motivated you to become involved with Safe Journey?
Alli: The first 25-years of my life featured domestic violence. I grew
up in the midst of it as a child and married an abusive partner at the age of
19. I am blessed to have broken the cycle of violence in my own life and believe
it is my purpose to help other women do the same. My experiences brought me to
Safe Journey as a volunteer in 2004; in 2008 I was hired to lead the
restructuring effort and have been with the organization ever since. Today I am
honored to serve as the Executive Director of the new combined organization,
Is it hard to deal with the issue of domestic violence daily?
Alli: No! While the stories can be heart breaking, the courage, beauty
and resilience of each and every woman who finds her way through our door fuels
our passion to support them. This is not work for the faint of heart; it is not
a field for someone looking for a j-o-b. People drawn to work with domestic
violence do so because it is their “heart’s work”. It takes dedication, love,
compassion and patience. As advocates and counselors, it is our responsibility
to help these women to remember who they are (not who their abusers have told
them they are) and to help them remember what they have to live for; to honor
their journey and support their healing. It is deeply gratifying.
Thank you, Alli! This ends the first part of the interview. The second part will be posted on Thursday.
Alli encompasses all of the needed attributes to be a heartfelt leader in the journey to stop Domestic Violence.