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Sarah's Inn helps victimized women learn to live without pain
Women who get caught in a cycle of domestic violence, says Tanya Kent, executive director of Sarah's Inn, usually don't fathom what has hit them until it is painful, recurring and sometimes too late.

Unwittingly, the victims exist in the ebb and flow of their abuser's unchecked power, often enduring repetitive emotional and physical beatings, and sometimes worse. Only about one-seventh of all domestic assaults come to the attention of the police, and the percentage of female murder victims killed by intimate partners has remained steady at about 30 percent since 1976, according to agency statistics.

Last year, Sarah's Inn helped more than 3,500 victims of domestic violence in 24 communities in the near west suburbs and along Chicago's borders. While the agency started out as a crisis and referral line 25 years ago, it now offers a wide array of services along with the crisis line, which operates 24 hours a day and is staffed by trained volunteers and agency employees.

In recent years more community outreach programs have been added to the mix, including Latina Services, which meets the specific cultural needs of the Latin community. Another augmentation has been specialized programs geared to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. 

"Research indicates that domestic violence occurs in a transgender relationship with the same frequency of a heterosexual relationship," Kent reports. "Our staff and volunteer training modules now include information on homophobia, heterosexism and domestic violence issues as they relate to lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships, and we are reaching out to those communities."

Traditionally, Kent continues, women who have sought out Sarah's Inn have received up to 18 months of housing and intensive supportive services, including assistance with emergency shelter and individual and group counseling.

"We also provide abused women with basic skills training, court advocacy and help them locate permanent, affordable housing and employment," she says.

To further address a family's needs, the agency offers counseling through its Children and Teen Program and the Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Education service. It targets youth at high schools and middle schools to educate them about teen dating and violence prevention, Kent explains.


Oak Leyden fast facts
Agency Name: Oak Leyden Developmental Services, Inc., 411 Chicago, Oak Park, 708-524-1050

Your agency's basic mission: The mission of Oak Leyden Developmental Services, Inc. is to help people with developmental disabilities meet life's challenges and reach their highest potential.

Year founded? 1956

How many people does your agency serve every year? 567

How many employees/volunteers does your agency have? 150 employees/20 volunteers

What kind of volunteer opportunities does your agency offer? Special events and mailings, board members & board comitee members

If someone is interested in volunteering who should they contact? Linda Bishop, Fundraising Assistant, 708-524-1050 x 102

In addition to monetary support, what other kinds of donations does your agency need? Computers, power tools, hand tools, household items, anything.


Did you know?*
... that the Volunteer Center is a United Way agency? 

... that the estimated dollar value of volunteer time is $17.19 per hour?

... that the Volunteer Center serves as a volunteer clearinghouse for Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and the surrounding communities of west Cook County, including Austin?

... that 57% of American adults said they volunteered with a nonprofit organization of charitable cause in 2004?

... that the Volunteer Center refers more than 600 volunteers annually to local agencies and organizations?

... that 60% of Midwesterners volunteered during the past 12 months, compared to 62% of Southerners, 54% of Westerners and 49% of those in the Northeast?

... that the Volunteer Center has an Action Guide of Volunteer Opportunities for Youth?

... that volunteers report engaging in volunteer work an average of 16.5 hours in a typical month, or 198 hours during the past year.

... that the Volunteer Center has a website listing hundreds of volunteer opportunities at

... that those who volunteered on average the greatest number of hours per month are people with incomes under $35,000 per year, those attending religious services once per week or more, and 18-34 year olds?

... that the Center's TEAM program matches persons with disabilities with volunteer opportunities in the community?

* Information from Independent Sector and a new survey sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.


United Way hires first new director in 14 years
Kate Wenzel fast facts

• Age: 41

• Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1984, English rhetoric

• Work experience: Spent most recent year with Symmetrics Marketing Corp.; before that, eight years with Information Resources, Inc., and seven years with Nielsen Marketing Research.

• Hometown: Grew up in west suburban Western Springs, pop. 12,493. Has spent last 20 years in Oak Park.

• Hobbies: Golf, reading, gardening and going to son's baseball games.


Parenthesis fast facts
Agency Name: Parenthesis Parent-Child Center, 405 S. Euclid Ave., Oak Park, 708-848-2227  Web Site:

Your agency's basic mission: Parenthesis seeks to strengthen family bonds and facilitate the development of parents and young children by affirming the parent/child relationship, improving parenting skills and alleviating family isolation.

Year founded? 1980

How many people does your agency serve every year? Over 600 parents and children

How many employees/volunteers does your agency have? Parenthesis has 13 employees; last year we were assisted by at least 150 volunteers, exclusive of board and advisory board members.

What kind of volunteer opportunities does your agency offer? Cooks to prepare a meal for  Parenting On Our Own (single parent program); volunteers to help with the fall and spring consignment sales; hostesses/hosts for the April Kitchen Walk

If someone is interested in volunteering who should they contact? Carey, Development Assistant 708-848-2227

In addition to monetary support, what other kinds of donations does your agency need? Diapers and pull-ups, office supplies, children's art supplies (markers, paints, craft/mosaic supplies), new or gently-used children's books, a digital camera, TV-VCR, Pentium 3 or better computers, Journals (unlined bound), colorful chiffon scarves and storage containers.

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