In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, I am honored to feature Angelina Coe, Executive Director of Shelter From The Storm, the Coachella Valley’s only victim assistance organization. Their mission is to provide support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities. Shelter From The Storm’s first priority is the safety of those who seek assistance. Their programs work with clients to meet their needs so they can look ahead to a safe horizon.
Kate Buckley: I understand you grew up in Hudson County, New Jersey, and graduated from the College of Saint Elizabeth with a degree in psychology. Tell us about your career path after college.
Angelina Coe: After completing my degree, I started my career in the field of nonprofit domestic violence services. I started working as a Children’s Program Assistant at the local domestic violence shelter in Jersey City, New Jersey. Within my first year, I was prompted to the Children’s Program Coordinator and as a staff trainer. I knew I wanted to do more for victims of domestic violence and their families. If I was able to help a family learn the tools to break the cycle of violence early on in a child’s life, the more likely it would be for the cycle to not be repeated in that child’s adult life. After three and a half years there I moved on to become a case manager and that began my proverbial climb up the cooperate ladder to becoming an Executive Director of a comprehensive domestic violence service provider 16 years later. Over the past 18 years in the nonprofit sector, I have worked with the chronically homeless, men and women with mental health and substance abuse issues, pregnant women with children but my passion has always been working with victims of domestic violence.
KB: And what brought you to Palm Springs?
AC: In 2000, I moved to California from New Jersey with my husband for his career advancement in ministry. I began working on Skid Row in Los Angeles, and after 6 ½ years of working with the chronically homeless with mental health and substance abuse issues, I knew it was time to go back to my true passion— working with families and victims of domestic violence. Having started our own little family, we wanted the “American Dream” of our own home. We were visiting family in Riverside County and fell in love with the area. We knew we could raise our family in Beaumont. When I learned that Shelter From The Storm was looking for a new Executive Director, I knew that was my next Executive Director position and I could make a difference in the Coachella Valley for victims of domestic violence and their families. I had been commuting back and forth from Beaumont to Whittier, California where I was working as an Executive Director for a domestic violence agency for almost two years. My family and I were so excited to for me to be able to work so close to home as well as make a difference in our own community. Being a survivor of domestic violence myself, I know the importance of finding safety and support. That is what SFTS provides to the families that turn to us in their time of need.
KB: It seems that everything you’ve been doing paved the way for you to serve as the Executive Director for Shelter From The Storm. You were hired in 2012. What have the past two years been like for you?
AC: I love what I do, but these past two years have been very interesting and challenging. SFTS has undergone many changes and continues to evolve as we move forward to the future. The state of the economy has drastically altered the funding streams for many nonprofit; especially domestic violence agencies. With the support of the Board, staff, and volunteers we have enhanced our fundraising efforts and now have two major fundraising events throughout the year. The Coachella Valley has some of the most generous and giving supporters and without them we could not do what we do. I am humbled and impressed by the wholehearted giving in our communities and am encouraged that with these generous supporters we will keep moving forward and help victims of intimate partner domestic violence find the safe haven they seek and the support they need to break the cycle of domestic violence in their lives and that of their children.
KB: Angelina, for the uninitiated, can you describe how Shelter From The Storm came to be?
AC: Shelter From The Storm [pictured at left] was founded in 1988 by a group of community leaders who recognized that services and safety for domestic violence victims was a critical issue in the underserved areas of the Coachella Valley and throughout Eastern Riverside County. Thus, Shelter From The Storm was established as a non-profit corporation for the purpose of providing the much needed shelter and services to battered women and children. SFTS opened its 72-bed emergency shelter in September 1993. Since that time, the shelter has seen tremendous growth, providing safety, and counseling, case management, and legal and social service advocacy for more than 900 women and children each year.
KB: Whom does Shelter from the Storm serve? How many people does the Shelter serve each month and is there a specific geographic boundary?
AC: Shelter From The Storm specializes in serving victims of intimate partner domestic violence, mainly women and their children. The target population of SFTS’ emergency shelter is low or no-income battered women and their children who are homeless by virtue of their decision to leave their abuser. We are here to support victims of domestic violence and provide them the help and resources they need. The number of individuals served monthly varies depending on the program and services being sought. The primary geographic areas SFTS serves are the Coachella Valley and Eastern Riverside County, from the Banning/Beaumont Pass all the way to Blythe, but we also serve other areas when we can be of help, especially in safety transfers from other domestic violence shelters in the surrounding counties. During the fiscal year (FY) 2013-2014 SFTS has served agency wide 923 victims of domestic violence, 589 of those victims were children. 73 women and 143 children victims received 6,910 shelter bed-nights and 20,745 meals. They had access to Case Management, Individual & Group Counseling, on-site medical clinic and shelter school programs (Pre-school & K-12). 250 women and men victims with 424 children were provided Outreach services, including safety plans, protective orders and/or referrals to shelter and other community resources. 11 women and 22 children victims participated in our Transitional Housing program acquiring skills to lead safe, health, independent lives. They had access to Case Management and Mental Health services at our community counseling center. There were 1,722 victims who accessed the agency’s 24-hour crisis hotline receiving shelter intake services or referrals to appropriate community services.
KB: I think there’s a misconception that Domestic Violence only happens across certain socio-economic sectors, or to certain demographics, but that’s not true at all, is it?
AC: You are correct, there is a misconception about domestic violence and who are the victims of this abuse. Domestic Violence, especially intimate partner domestic violence knows no boundaries; it does not discriminate and may be of a physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional level; including verbal abuse and intimidation. It is all about power and control, not about love and emotional outbursts. Let us not forget the silent victims in an intimate partner domestic violence—the children who witness the abuse from behind closed doors and secret hiding places in an attempt to remain safe from harm and “protected” from knowing the truth behind the violent reality they endure.
KB: Yes, I can speak to that personally. It’s incredibly important for all women to learn the signs and protect themselves and their families. Do you do any community outreach or education in this regard?
AC: Shelter From The Storm does community outreach from distributing information at local health and resources fairs to guest speaking engagements for civic clubs, social groups, schools, and special events, and as of late via the media as a result of all the media attention from the Ray Rice video. We also have advocates at the local DPSS offices in DHS, Cathedral City, Indio, and Blythe, and one stationed at the Family Justice Center in Palm Desert. We also have our 24 hour 7 day a week hotline and toll free number for assistance, resources, and support.
KB: What are your other current programs and initiatives?
AC: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), so we are participating in the local Night Out events in honor of all the lives lost as a result of violent crimes, including domestic violence. We are heading a Purple Thursday campaign asking everyone in the community to wear purple or don a purple ribbon to take a Stand to stop the silence of domestic violence in our communities especially on Thursday night football nights in October.
KB: How can our readers support Shelter from the Storm? Are there ways to get involved?
AC: There are many ways to support, from monetary donations, because these donations help support our program and services efforts, as well as in-kind donations of store gift cards, new clothing, new hygiene items and cleaning supplies, as well as new toys for the holidays. Since it is almost Halloween, we are having a small harvest fest for the children in shelter and are accepting candy donations as well as new Halloween costumes for older children ages 10 years old to 16 years old are needed as well as for younger school age children. Please visit our website for our Wish List of needed items and contact our office to learn how to become a volunteer or a drop off location for our annual client Holiday party on December 13th, 2014 where we distribute gifts to the children and have a Santa’s Workshop where children can get items to give to mom for the holidays.
KB: Any exciting upcoming events you’d like to tell us about?
AC: As we celebrate DVAM, we are ending the month with our 14th Annual Hats Off Luncheon on Halloween, October 31, 2014 from 11AM to 1:30PM at the Hyatt in Indian Wells. There will be a Silent Auction, live entertainment, a great lunch, guest speakers, and the ever popular Hats Contest. This fundraiser will help raise greatly needed funds for the agency and we are also asking guest to bring in an item from our wish list as well. Then in the spring we will have our 3rd annual New Beginnings Gala on Saturday, March 28, 2015. There we celebrate survival and new beginnings and raise monies to make it through the summer months and support all the families we serve during that time.
KB: When you’re not hard at work, what activities do you enjoy in and around Palm Springs?
AC: I am a mom and love spending time with our children. Our two youngest are involved in sports and we spend our free time and weekends attending their sporting events and activities. Our 12 year old daughter is one of the fastest 12 and under girl’s fast pitch softball pitchers in California and is excelling in her sport, and our 10 year old son enjoys his gymnastics activities and is getting stronger as a student and athlete every day. My free time is dedicated to my family and our love for God and each other.
KB: Angelina Coe, what is it that you love most about the community of Palm Springs?
AC: This community is unlike any other in the United States; their support and generosity is so heartwarming and appreciated. There is so much to do in this area and such a diversity of people. They have always been so supportive, so much so that we have hosted our New Beginnings Gala for the past three years at the Palm Springs Convention Center. We are so grateful for Palm Springs’ support over the years. It is a great community to be a part of and together we are changing lives for the better one family at a time in the Coachella Valley by helping to break the cycle of violence and end the plight of intimate partner domestic violence in our Valley.
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