by Kathy Eide Casas
“This time it will be different…”
Words heard far too often from victims of domestic violence. Sadly though, many times it is not different. Domestic violence is like that.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone. With the recent high profile events concerning domestic violence, it’s easy to see that it crosses all lines, from professional athletes to our own neighborhoods. It’s not just physical abuse. It can take a number of forms including physical, verbal, emotional, economic and/or sexual abuse.
Here in Fresno County, the Marjaree Mason Center (MMC) offers a comprehensive support system for victims of domestic violence. Since 1979, when the MMC was first established, those involved have worked tirelessly to provide a safe and supportive environment throughout the County for individuals exposed to family violence.
Recently, the longtime Executive Director of the Center, Pamela Kallsen retired, and Genelle Taylor Kumpe was named as the new Executive Director. Now in her second year with the Center, learn more about Genelle in the interview below.
KRL: How long have you been the Executive Director?
GTK: I was hired on as ED and started at the end of August 2013. When the year came around I was astonished. The time went by so completely fast.
KRL: Why were you drawn to this position?
GTK: I’ve always loved doing things that provide a purpose in life. You only live once and making the move to become the Executive Director of such a wonderful organization provides such purpose. It allows me to make a difference in our community and help those in need. Wherever I can use my skills and abilities in a positive light, I’m all for it! Plus, having a family and two young children of my own, I just can’t stand the thought of young, innocent children hurting the way they are when in a household where domestic violence is present.
KRL: What is the role of the Executive Director?
GTK: The ED provides leadership and direction to MMC, its staff and volunteers in the pursuit of its strategic goals, objectives and mission as established by its Board of Directors. The ED has full accountability to the day to day operations of the agency and serves as its principal spokesperson.
KRL: What is the most important aspect of your job?
GTK: Because of the nature and complexity of the agency whose mission is to provide shelter and support services to adults and their children affected by domestic violence, while striving to prevent and end the cycle of abuse through education and advocacy, we cannot accomplish our goals without the assistance of others. It’s so important for our agency to be the mouthpiece and conduit to educate our community about the effects of domestic violence. It is most definitely a community problem, not an individual family problem. That being said, developing relationships with other agencies that can provide services to those affected by DV, help in the education of our community, and assist with preventing the cycle of abuse is of the utmost importance.
KRL: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
GTK: The most rewarding aspect is to see the transformation in our clients. Their faces actually physically transform. Women come to us completely at the end of their rope, children come in and often times are constantly in tears. When they leave, there is a sense of confidence and hope within. We help people from trauma to recovery and to become self-sufficient. Seeing smiles on their faces and hearing the children’s’ laughter throughout the safe house is my absolutely favorite part of the job.
KRL: What is a ‘normal’ day like for you?
GTK: There’s never any ‘normal’ for an Executive Director of a non-profit. Every day is different and provides a new opportunity and challenge. That’s what I love about the job; it keeps me on my toes and there’s never a dull moment.
KRL: What are the greatest challenges faced by the MMC?
GTK: The greatest challenges are no different than those of other non-profits. We all face the same thing: constant search of funding operations. With 3 Safe Houses, an historic Administration building, an Education and Training Center, over 75 employees, and over 5,600 clients per year proves to be a tremendous challenge to cover operations. $0.85 of every dollar goes to direct services, but not everyone or every source wants to fund general operations. It takes a lot of resources to keep the doors open and serve that many clients in constant emergency. I’m so thankful we are located in such a caring community that does support us and is willing to give their time, talent, and/or treasures.
KRL: What accomplishment for the MMC are you most proud?
GTK: There’s been a lot accomplished in a year that I am extremely proud of. I think what I’m most proud of is our “for the children” project. Children exposed to domestic violence are affected in so many negative ways and contributes to the continuous cycle of abuse. MMC sees children as young as 8 years old worrying about abusers coming back and taking their mother’s life, and then having to raise and support their younger siblings. That’s not something anyone should be fearful of, let alone a child. This newly funded project has allowed us to bring in clinical staff that can directly work with children that reside in our safe houses to diagnose and work with children in a state of trauma. Our staff also works with moms and their children in repairing the bond by things like enjoying family outings together such as going to the zoo or going bowling. Some of our families have never experienced these activities.
Coming next week: Facts and information about domestic violence prevention and education in Fresno County.