Local volunteers donate large amount of time to women's shelter
JANESVILLE It’s not unusual for Gina Smith to volunteer from noon to midnight at the YWCA of Rock County.
YWCA Executive Director Allison Hokinson said Smith is at the office for 12 hours most days.
“I absolutely love (volunteering). I try to stay away some days, and I just can’t,” Smith said.
With all the time and energy invested, has she ever considered taking a salary?
“The thought has never crossed my mind,” Smith said. “I have enough money to pay my bills and have some left over.”
The reward of helping the women and their families who come to the YWCA for counseling and shelter is more than enough for Smith. The volunteering has helped her recover from a violent domestic relationship in her past, she said.
“I feel courageous, and I have high self-esteem again,” Smith said with a smile. “I’m back now.”
Hokinson said Smith has a great ability to connect with women who come the YWCA, and she has a natural ability to stay calm during a crisis.
Smith spends her time organizing donations, counseling women and helping out in anyway she can. On Friday afternoon, she was taking a women and her baby to the doctor for a checkup and heading to the grocery store to buy food for the families staying at the YWCA Alternatives to Violence shelter.
Shopping is no easy task. Smith said it can take her several hours, and she usually fills four shopping carts with groceries.
The cost of the weekly trips adds up, usually about $500 when the shelter is full, and the shelter has been full most of the summer.
“This is the fullest summer I can remember,” Smith said. “We had to double some mothers and their families in the same room.”
The busy summer has made it even more important for the YWCA to raise money and receive donations.
The YWCA is holding its fifth annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes march against domestic violence Friday, Aug. 26.
The event has grown from 30 men walking down the street without raising any money to 150 and 200 walkers this year hoping to raise $40,000.
Hokinson said they would love to have more corporate sponsored teams and some high school age boys attend the walk. Young men walking can go a long way toward breaking a cycle of domestic violence that often starts when younger boys witness domestic violence growing up, Hokinson said.
The problem of domestic violence affects women and families in Rock County everyday, Hokinson said.
“We have had some fatalities in Rock County in the last few years,” Hokinson said. “This does happen in our backyard.”
In addition to raising money for the YWCA, the walk helps give hope to victims of domestic abuse.
“It shows there are men who are willing to stand up for them, good men who they don’t even know,” Smith said. “It goes a long way in helping them build healthy relationships.”
SEXUAL ASSAULT FACTS
According to the YWCA of Rock County:
-- One in six women in the United States will be a victim of sexual assault.
-- 80 percent of victims are under age 30.
-- 12 percent of girls in grades 9-12 said they have been sexually abused.
-- Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
IF YOU GO
What: YWCA of Rock County Walk A Mile in Her Shoes annual men’s march against domestic violence. Everyone is invited to participate, and women’s shoes are optional.
When: Friday, Aug. 26.
Where: Kutter Harley Davidson, 3223 N. Pontiac Drive, Janesville.
Schedule: 4-5:15 p.m. registration and shoe fittings; 5:15 p.m. kick-off ceremony; 5:30 p.m. walk begins; 5:50 walkers return; 5-9 p.m. celebration event with food, silent action and live music featuring Johnny Can’t Stop.
Advance registration: Call (608) 752-5445 or visit ywcawalkamile.org.
Cost for post-walk celebration: $30 each for non-walkers. Walkers who raise at least $50 receive a complimentary ticket to the event. Walkers who raise $250 receive two event tickets. Walkers who raise $500 or more get four tickets.