El Dorado Women’s Center is a nonprofit agency dedicated to serving domestic violence and sexual assault victims and their families. The Center serves a large, primarily rural community on the western slope of El Dorado County in Northern California. With only a small staff, volunteers are in integral part of the Center’s ability to provide quality services to its clients.
There are many volunteers who assist at the center. Some do not work directly with clients but provide the center with important fundraising support services. Others work directly with the clients at the center. At the forefront, there are the members of the Executive Board and Associate Board of Directors. These volunteer members provide policy direction and skills in the area of personnel, management, and finance. All volunteers devote thousands of hours organizing the center’s annual fundraiser, which is an essential source of undesignated funds. Many have said that the El Dorado Women’s Center saves lives. The 29 volunteers who work directly with the victims and their families definitely can attest to that fact.
The volunteers at the center answer the 24-hour crisis line at night and on the weekends. Last year, they assisted in taking over 3,700 calls where they talked with victims and helped them take the necessary steps to ensure their safety. At the center’s safe house, volunteers provided both tangible and emotional support to 45 women and 113 children.
Volunteers play a crucial role to victims at the center with regards to the pro-bono legal services that are provided. The volunteers provide court accompaniment and legal advocacy. They also escort victims in civil court to file custody and restraining orders as well as child custody mediation. In criminal court, the volunteers support victims who are subpoenaed to testify against their assailants.
Volunteers co-facilitate weekly groups in the Men’s Alternative to Abusive Patterns program, which is a 52-week batterers treatment program. The team of volunteers also facilitates two weekly drop-in groups for domestic violence victims. With regards to community education, volunteers also assist in teaching developmentally disabled adults a personal safety course. In addition, they participate in special projects life the Holiday Adopt-a-Family program.
There are many challenges of volunteering in an agency such as the El Dorado Women’s Center, which serves people in crisis. To ensure that each direct service volunteer is prepared, each volunteer must take a 60-hour certified training course. They must also continue to attend in-service trainings throughout their volunteer experience.
In 1999, 9,305 hours of service were given at the center. These hours represent an average of 755 per month of dedicated service to the center and its clients. The El Dorado Women’s Center’s efforts have raised the level of public awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. Along with the staff, the volunteers have made it easier for victims and their children to make the transition from living in fear to leading violence-free lives.