Irene Prince retired in 2004 and since 2006 has been an active and dedicated volunteer at Sarah's Inn.
After undergoing 40 hours of intensive volunteer training, Prince has worked tirelessly and helped countless victims of domestic violence move forward. She works shifts on their 24-hour crisis-intervention hot line, has given educational outreach talks at OPRF High School, and volunteers with the agency's Partner Abuse Intervention Program (PAIP).
The 69-year-old Oak Parker says she is herself a survivor of domestic violence, and that is why she remains so focused on helping others to break the cycle.
A short honeymoon
She tells groups her story began in 1966 on her honeymoon when her husband slapped her while she was doing the dishes.
Over their 18-year marriage, his abuse continued, often with seemingly mundane acts of power and control, and escalated until her abuser (brutally) threatened her life.
"While I was asleep, I heard this noise: bong, bong, bong. I can still hear it. Then I felt the pain," Prince recalls. "When I woke up, he was beating me on the head with his cane. That was what was making the noise. When I woke up, I threw up my arm, and he started beating my arm, and I continued to make a lot of noise, asking him loudly, 'What are you doing?' again and again."
Fourteen stitches in the back of her head, and a near-blinding eye injury later, she divorced him, seeking help from an agency that provided referrals to help victims of domestic violence get their lives back on track.
While not every volunteer who is a survivor of domestic violence is equipped or ready to volunteer in this way, says Juliet Yera, development director at Sarah's Inn, Prince was.
"We are always looking for more volunteers," says Year, "and as much as we would like to expand and have more staff — and we would love to do that — and as much as we would love to continue to grow our violence prevention program at the local schools, the way we are able to continue doing this work is that we get a steady flow of volunteers."
For Prince, this is a significant way to give something back in her retirement years.
Turning the page
"One of the things that is so great about Irene's story is that it is so important for us here to have community-based solutions," says Melissa Kelsey, development and communications coordinator. "Sarah's Inn is a place where people like Irene, who want to help Sarah's Inn, can get trained and involved. With her experiences, she can become part of our outreach to teens, work with abusers, and work on the crisis line. And Sarah's Inn is the place she can be to do that, grow herself as an individual, while helping other people."
Recently Prince received some closure. At the end of her husband's life, she learned he was remorseful for what he had done to her. That long-awaited revelation enabled her to forgive him, and herself, although she says she will never forget what he did to her.
"What Irene has learned at Sarah's Inn has helped her bring her family to resolution about what happened to her," Yera says.