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HELPFUL STEPS

Inaugural walk raises awareness, funds for women's shelter

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

By: Caitlin VanOverberghe Source: Daily Reporter

 



GREENFIELD - They stood along the path and cheered.

As runners and walkers panted along the Pennsy Trail, nearing the finish line, a little crowd donning teal T-shirts - the color promoting awareness of sexual assault awareness and a nod to the reason the supporters were gathered there - greeted them with shouts, applause and words of encouragement.

More than 100 people turned out Saturday for the inaugural 5K walk to benefit Alternatives Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting domestic violence and sexual assault.

Community members of all ages walked or ran along the Pennsy Trail in Greenfield to show support for the Alternatives organization and the victims it serves. The fundraiser was held in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is marked each April and often represented by the color, teal.

Saturday's event was the first major fundraiser Alternatives has hosted locally to benefits its women's shelter in Anderson, which has served Hancock County residents for more than a decade. Nearly $3,500 was raised to help run the shelter, organizers said.

The 5K Against Violence was planned and coordinated by members of Leadership Hancock County, an eight-month academy that immerses local stakeholders in the community in leadership discussions and experiences.

Each Leadership Hancock County class takes on projects aimed at community improvement. Rachel Dennis, a class member and an Alternatives victim advocate and outreach coordinator to Hancock County, led the charge to create an event to benefit the organization near to her heart.

Though the event raised thousands of dollars that will go a long way to help the women staying at Alternatives' Anderson shelter, Dennis said she hopes it also served as a reminder to Hancock County residents that the work of Alternatives, the place and its programs, is available to them.

Dennis, who became the county's Alternatives victim advocate nearly a year ago, said she's always surprised to learn how few people know of the organization. Those referred to her office in the Greenfield Police Department often say they'd never heard of the nonprofit before needing its help.

More than anything, she hopes the walk - which will now be an annual endeavor - will help boost awareness of the shelter and its causes.

Alternatives helps women from Madison, Henry, Hancock, Hamilton, Tipton and Marion counties. In 2016, the organization served 64 Hancock County victims and influenced more than 1,400 residents through prevention programming.

The organization's leaders said they are continually trying to reach more people in Hancock County, and they are working to expand programs into local schools, churches and other organizations to better spread their mission. They have tried for years to host fundraisers in and around Greenfield, but none was as successful as the walk, said Ashley Waterbury-Carpenter, and Alternatives staffer.

Rachel Cremeans, a member of the Leadership Hancock County group that organized the walk, admitted she'd never heard of Alternatives before helping plan the fundraiser. After hearing more about the organization during her leadership classes, she felt immediately moved to do more to help.

Cremeans said she's eager to see how the walk grows in the future and hopes it brings Alternatives much-deserved attention and support for years to come.

"That's the goal of Leadership (Hancock County)," she said. "We hope this gets the community talking about (Alternatives) more."

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