New Directions Domestic Abuse Services Center completed a remodeling project on its building last year, and Executive Director Diane Moore was excited to provide the Daily News with a tour of the upgraded facilities Friday morning.
Walking in from the building’s vestibule hallway (after being buzzed through the structure’s ultra-secure entranceway door from outside), one is immediately struck by the oversized plaque hanging in the New Directions lobby. That plaque, donated by The Domestic Violence Foundation, stands in memoriam of Devon Parsons. Parsons was a twelve-year-old Greensburg boy brutally murdered by his mother and her boyfriend in June 2011, in one of the most horrendous domestic-violence incidents ever visited upon Decatur County.
“Peace is friendship,” the plaque reads along one end, “and being healthy; peace is like the fresh yellow sun; peace sounds like dogs howling; peace tastes like candy.”
That poem, written by Parsons shortly before his death, offers a sobering reminder of the New Directions mission as one enters the facility’s main hall and the freshly-remodeled environs beyond.
The facility’s remodeled bedrooms might be described as not only welcoming, but even cozy. Matching bunk-beds, stuffed animals, toys and various children’s books fill one room, while a play pen and full bedroom suit sits in the other.
There’s also a laundry area with an oversized TV, and a full kitchen with well-stocked food supplies.
The facility’s client areas aren’t the only the parts to benefit from the upgrades, though. The main office — used by Moore as well as New Directions’ two part-time employees — also received a complete overhaul.
Following the brief tour, Moore sat down with the Daily News in those offices to talk about the remodel, about the facility’s mission moving forward and its struggles in recent months for funding.
“Funding for our building upgrade came from three main sources,” Moore explained. “Those are the Decatur County Community Fund (DCCF), Hilliard Lyons and an anonymous organization that doesn’t want to be named.”
Moore stressed that New Directions does much more for the community than provide shelter for victims of domestic violence.
“We are a services center for victims of domestic abuse and violence,” she said. “We serve men, too. Many people don’t realize that. We provide many more services besides shelter. We track and provide services to secondary victims (anybody in a household besides the primary victim affected by domestic abuse) as well as primary victims.”
To illustrate that point, Moore provided the Daily News with a graph charting the center’s clientele numbers from 2000 through 2012.
Moore signed on as the facility’s executive director in May 2011. The year before (2010), according to the chart, New Directions provided services to seven primary victims and six secondary victims, for a total of 13. Without Moore at its head for a full 12 months, in 2011, the facility served 66 primary victims, and 95 secondary victims, for a total of 161.
Under Moore’s first full year of leadership in 2012, the facility provided services to 151 primary victims and 167 secondary victims, for a total of 318. Those numbers are up from nine primaries and 16 secondaries in 2000, with similarly underwhelming numbers through 2010.
“We’re getting more and more community involvement, too,” Moore said. “We just recently had a local haircare business offer to provide free haircare and other services for some of our clients.”
In what might be a sign of the center’s increased clientele numbers and increased community profile, Moore said traffic to the New Directions website (www.mydirections.org) has increased in recent months.
According a graphic compiled by Moore and provided to the Daily News, between January 2012 and January 2013, log-ins to the site increased from 489 to 972.
“January was our biggest month ever at the site,” the executive director said.
She clarified, however, that the numbers represent only the total number of people who visited the site’s main page.
“Currently, we can’t track our total number of unique visitors or the total number of page clicks per month,” she added.
Considering those increases, it’s not difficult to understand why Moore might ask for increased funding for New Directions from the county and the city of Greensburg for 2013.
Starting with the regular meeting of the Decatur County Council in October, Moore did just that, requesting $20,000 in funding for 2013, compared to $15,000 in 2012.
According to the formal minutes of the Decatur County Council monthly meeting, dated Oct. 16, 2012, however, the County Council balked at approving the $5,000 increase.
As written in those minutes, “Diane Moore, Executive Director of New Directions, presented a very detailed report of her activities with the local agency charged with providing services for victims and families of domestic violence and abuse. She provided an in-depth review of the agency’s responsibilities and frugal use of available resources.”
After “much discussion” by the board regarding the proposed increase, with Moore taking questions from members of the Council, “various amounts of funding were discussed.”
Council member Rheadawn Metz, according to the minutes, made a motion to grant the additional $5,000, provided Moore implements the New Directions Teen Dating Violence Program at North and South Decatur High Schools within the coming year.
Ultimately, however, the Council approved only $2,500 in additional funding, leaving the Teen Dating Violence Program stipulation in place. The Council additionally stipulated that the center must also obtain increased funding from the City Council.
In the regular meeting of the Greensburg City Council earlier this month, however, the city approved $15,000 for New Directions, of $20,000 requested. That money, according to documents, came out of the state’s Riverboat gambling fund, whereas the county dollars, according to County Auditor Tammi Wenning, come from the general budget.
The City Council did leave open the possibility Moore could return later in the year for additional funding, provided she could demonstrate a need.
Although the Teen Violence Program will be implemented at NDHS this month and at SDHS later this year, to Moore’s understanding, the lack of additional city funding precludes additional funding from the county.
“I’m thrilled to be getting any money at all from the city and the county,” she said. “I really wish we’d have received the full $20,000 from both, but we’ll take what we can get. The lack of funding is really discouraging, though. Sometimes it just makes me want to give up.”
Moore added that the possibility of additional funding later in the year is hopeful, but not terribly practical or convenient from a business standpoint.
“I have to pay my employees,” she explained. “I have to plan a budget for the year. We offer services 24 hours a day, seven days a year. We are ALWAYS on call. What we’re providing is a human service, a human need.”
Moore noted, too, that, during her appearance before the County Council, the council questioned her use of volunteer labor.
“I use volunteers quite extensively,” she said.
According to figures compiled by the executive director and provided to the Daily News, in fact, from 2009 to 2012, the number of New Directions volunteers increased from 18 to 103. In the same time-frame, the number of volunteer hours worked more than doubled from 550.5 to 1,327.5.
Moore stressed, too, that there are certain times when volunteers can’t be counted on to work.
“How many volunteers want to or will work weekends or holidays?” She posed. “Not many — if any; it falls back on staff.”
Part of the problem with obtaining funding, Moore added, is a certain astigmatism attached to what New Directions does.
“People think that domestic violence just happens to ‘those people,’ or they think it’s not nearly so bad as alleged,” she said. “People will ask: ‘Why don’t they just get out?’”
She continued, “Before I went through training and started working with victims, I myself used to take the ‘why don’t they just get out’ attitude. I’ve learned, though, that domestic abuse is much more complicated than that. The thing I hear the most from friends and other women is: ‘The first time he hit me would be the last,’ but I know it doesn’t work that way, so I don’t say anything. Most people just really don’t understand what goes on behind closed doors, and they certainly don’t understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and domestic violence.”
Moore remains optimistic about the coming year and, indeed, expressed excitement about implementation of the Teen Violence Program at County Schools, regardless of its impact on funding.
Still, the executive director sounded far from optimistic when asked about what the funding woes could mean for New Directions moving forward.
“If we get any more funding cuts,” she said, “I just don’t know what we’ll do.”
For more information about New Directions, about its services or about volunteering, call 662-8822 or visit www.mynewdirections.org.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.