Since 1977, Anoka County residents have been an organized force against domestic violence through the Alexandra House.
One of the organization’s most important fundraisers for the past 10 years has been the Walk for Hope.
Saturday, Sept. 27, 530 people walked 2 miles and 120 ran a 5K under blue skies at Bunker Hills Regional Park. When they started and finished, Drumbeat a womens’ percussion ensemble,played an upbeat Latin music riff to lift their spirits after hearing heartbreaking statistics.
Alexandra House provides shelter and support services for women and children who are the victims of domestic or sexual abuse.
There are stories behind every number. Throughout a park shelter at Bunker Hills Regional Park were 22 silhouettes, each sharing the story of someone who died because of domestic violence. Participants learned there were another 12 domestic violence-related deaths in Minnesota so far this year.
Andre Koen, a volunteer on the Alexandra House board of directors, emphasized that people of all cultural backgrounds are victims of domestic and sexual abuse and that every time people gossip, they “re-victimize the victim.” He encouraged men to “police our brothers to protect our sisters” and for all adults to be role models for their children by having healthy relationships.
Equally important is being present, whether that means taking photos or videos with smartphones when witnessing domestic abuse in public or participating in fundraisers like the Walk for Hope.
“Every step you take is a step to speak for those silent witnesses who are not here to speak for themselves,” Koen said.
By the morning of Sept. 27, $47,827 had been raised, according to Alexandra House Executive Director Connie Moore. This included $25,500 from 32 sponsors. The 650 walkers and runners through online donations raised $12,472 and their registration fees chipped in an additional $9,855. Donations were still being accepted when this edition went to press. The goal was $35,000.
The donations to this nonprofit helps people who have been victims of both domestic and sexual abuse. Even when an incident happens in the middle of the night, there is someone ready to take their call and offer them a safe place to stay at the Alexandra House’s Blaine location.
The 24/7 phone help line came to be within a year of the formation of what was then called the Anoka County Task Force for Battered Women. The first emergency shelter opened in Fridley in 1980 for 12 women and children. The non-profit moved to Blaine in 1983 so its shelter could accept up to 17 people. The Alexandra House has been in Blaine since 1994. Its emergency shelter can now serve up to 35 women and children.
In 2013, Alexandra House provided direct service to 2,726 people, including sheltering 580 women and children at the Blaine facility. Nearly 8,000 phone calls came into Alexandra House.
This was the fourth time that Sherie Jewett, of Anoka, has participated in the Walk for Hope. She started after her daughter had told her and the police that she was sexually assaulted when she was eight years old. The offender was sentenced in 2012. Jewett, who has a degree in human services, volunteers at the Alexandra House taking calls on the 24-hour crisis line or helping women and children check into the emergency shelter. Her daughter has participated in the walk in previous years, but not this year.
“It means the world to me,” Jewett said when asked about how it feels to see so many people at the Walk for Hope.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]