Before a flurry of purple balloons were released Friday from the lawn of the district attorney’s office in Shawnee after a local judge and firefighter were honored as Project Safe Advocates of the Year. The ceremony was part of festivities held each October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Before a flurry of purple balloons were released Friday from the lawn of the district attorney’s office in Shawnee, a local judge and firefighter were honored as Project Safe Advocates of the Year. The ceremony was part of festivities held each October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The awards program was presented by Project Safe, Shawnee’s domestic violence resource and crisis center.
Advocate Tiffany J. Walker said their mission is to bring awareness to the community and bring forth changes.
“As a community, we must take a stand that violence is not accepted,” Walker said.
Honored as the Lincoln County Advocate of the Year was Special District Judge Dawson Engle, who handles all of the protective order cases in Lincoln County and some in Pottawatomie County.
Project Safe Director Mechelle King announced the awards and said Engle is always available for questions and works to assist those going through the process. Engle praised Project Safe and said when a victim has an advocate in the courtroom for those cases, it is a more comfortable environment for those involved.
Last year, Project Safe assisted more than 900 victims of domestic violence. At any given time, Shawnee’s shelter, a two-bedroom house, typically has 12 women and children staying there, and sometimes there can be up to 18 staying there.
For years, the residents there all shared one bathroom — one toilet, one sink and one shower, King said.
But thanks to the other honoree, Jim Ogle, who took on the volunteer project, the shelter now has three toilets and three sinks, along with a shower and a bathtub.
For his efforts, Ogle was honored as Pottawatomie County’s Advocate of the Year.
Ogle, who volunteered for the project, said God led him to help at the shelter. As a Shawnee firefighter by profession, he said he had a lot of help working on the project from others, including fellow firefighters who also volunteered on days off. The project had limited funds in the beginning, but Ogle said donated money and materials came through to make the project a success.
As a Project Safe staff member, Walker also was honored by King for being a great advocate.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth served as speaker on what he called a beautiful Friday morning for the group, but added that many wake up to pain caused by mental or physical abuse.
Booth said the sheriff’s office is happy to partner with other agencies, including Project Safe, to help reduce incidents of domestic violence. Through recent efforts, Booth said there’s been a reduction over the past few years, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We invest a lot in the future of our children’s education,” Booth said, but added children also need to be educated about domestic violence.
“We don’t need to keep this cycle going,” Booth said, adding domestic violence is a generational problem.
King said one in four women are affected by domestic violence. Walker and King, who are both survivors, said their experiences have helped them serve those who need help because they know firsthand that the programs and services do work.
Project Safe is always in need of donated items for those at the shelter, King said, and they are especially in need right now for ladies clothing items, such as underwear and bras, along with jogging-type pants for winter.
King said many of the women come to the shelter with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.
Project Safe also works with the Shawnee Rescue Mission and sends clients there to get clothing, King said, so used clothing items also can be donated there, she said.