Take part in Domestic Violence Awareness Month | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Take part in Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center is especially busy in its efforts to gain support for women and children suffering from physical and emotional abuse.

In the United States, a woman is battered every 15 seconds and children are just as often witnesses of abuse or victims themselves.

Since October 1998, the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center has handled 1,418 cases of domestic violence, and 150 new cases of sexual assault, counting survivors and their families. The center’s hard work was rewarded with a proclamation from the city.

The Women’s Center is dedicated to helping local women get out of dangerous situations and providing safety and stability for clients and their children.

“We will always find an alternative for women,” South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center Shelter Director Lois Denowitz said.

Denowitz started as a volunteer at the Women’s Center in 1980.

“The main reason I volunteered was because I wanted to give back to the community,” Denowitz said. “I took the training and six years ago I became the shelter director.”

Volunteers are required to take a Crisis Counseling course offered at Lake Tahoe Community College, before beginning work on the Crisis Hotline, which is open for calls 24 hours a day.

“It (the training course) is important in helping people to understand a little bit more the issues we deal with,” volunteer coordinator Yvonne Anfossi said. “The hotline is just like 911. You have all kinds of calls coming in.”

Linda Mendizabal is one of a handful of volunteers who work on the Crisis Hotline.

“She is one of my most important people,” Anfossi said. “The ladies who work on the hotline are just an awesome, awesome group of people.”

Other duties do not demand training.

“There are always plenty of things to do, especially this time of year,” Anfossi said. “Now that we have the new building, we need even more volunteers.”

There are also people not directly affiliated with the center who pitch in.

Many local businesses and service clubs do their part by providing discounts and donations.

Rodney Censi of Rodney’s Imports, volunteers his time once a month, to help women in the program. If their cars are not running, or there are other minor problems, Censi and his staff, including Ray Wilson and Todd Marshall, fix the cars at no cost.

“We just kind of go through it and set it straight, and it’s all parts and labor free,” Censi said.

Like Denowitz, Censi wants to give back to the community.

“I thought about it over the years and it just seemed like a good thing to do,” he said.

New York Pizza owner Kevin Malloy and his wife Kelly have been providing free “birthday” pizzas for the children at the Women’s Center for more than three years.

“It’s for the kids. That’s the only reason I do it,” Malloy said. “This gives them the opportunity to have a normal birthday.”

Tracy Belshe of Tracy’s Hair Design and Carolyn Packard from Hair For All Seasons also devote time and service to the Women’s Center.

Belshe “adopted” a family from the shelter and does all of their hair free of charge. She has also done “cut-a-thons,” in which she donates a full day’s proceeds to the Women’s Center.

“It’s just little stuff I do, but sometimes it’s the little stuff that makes a big difference,” Belshe said.

Packard also does hair for women and children from the center, at no cost.

“I just think it’s a nice thing to do,” Packard said. “I do it as a gift. If they (the Women’s Center) are helping these women, then other people should do something to help them do it.”

Hair For All Seasons also sponsors children at the center during Christmas, providing gifts for them.

Jazzercise instructor Sherry Baiocchi offers free coupons to the women at the center. According to Denowitz, Baiocchi’s service is greatly appreciated.

“It’s so important for the women to do things for themselves,” she said. “It’s looking toward themselves again, taking care of themselves.”

Denowitz works closely with Inga Luke, owner of U-Consign-It.

People can make donations to the consignment shop in the name of the Women’s Center, and Luke will credit the center the value of the items donated.

“It’s a voucher system,” Denowitz said. “Inga’s giving the value right back to the center.” The Women’s Center gives vouchers to their clients who need things like lamps or a phone or an outfit suitable for an interview.

“We sell the things at value and Lois sends vouchers for the people that qualify and they can buy anything they want.

“You know, what you donate may be someone’s treasure,” Luke said.

Denowitz asks that people donating large pieces of furniture call Luke first so she can make room in the store.

Donations of canned goods can be brought directly to the Women’s Center.

For information, contact Denowitz or Anfossi at (530) 544-2118.

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