The Commitment to Community Award is presented quarterly to a Chamber Member who demonstrates a commitment to improving the quality of life for residents and/or businesses in the greater Belleville area. The Ambassadors are honored to present this quarter’s award to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois.
The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois has been providing services to victims of domestic violence and providing prevention and education to the community for over 36 years. When the Center was founded in 1979, it consisted of one five-room shelter in Belleville with one part-time staffer. Today it employs 32 people and has physical presences in Monroe, Randolph, and St. Clair Counties.
The Center provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence including shelter, legal advocacy, counseling, prevention education, art therapy and a 24/7 hotline. They also operate the “Shelter Shop,” located at #2C Bellevue Park Plaza in Belleville, selling donated, pre-owned clothing, furniture, and household items to benefit the Center. Clients staying in the shelter that are in need of emergency clothing and/or other items are also given vouchers to shop for items free of charge – a valuable asset to those who flee with nothing.
The Violence Prevention Center partners with schools, hospitals, community service agencies, police departments and State’s Attorney’s offices to further their mission of eliminating domestic violence in individual lives and society as a whole. They begin educating children as early as kindergarten about bullying and continue through high school, educating students about healthy relationships. On college campuses they hold Candlelight Vigils to honor the lives of domestic violence victims, giving the community an opportunity to see the real-life implications of domestic violence.
Darlene Jones, Executive Director of the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois, is often asked if domestic violence is getting worse because there are so many incidents and deaths being reported as domestic violence. Her response is this, “It’s not getting worse; it’s just being identified as what it is. The education is working.” She sees this as major progress towards the center’s goal of eliminating domestic violence. No longer is it simply referred to as “disturbance of peace” or a “domestic disturbance.”
The Chamber recognizes and commends The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois for all of their important work. For more information about the Center, visit vpcswi.org.