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From the time I was old enough to understand her, I remember my mother repeating these ideas to me over and over until they were drilled into my head:

  • You are a good person
  • You may make bad decisions sometimes, but you are still a good person
  • No one has the right to make you feel like you are less than them

These became my mantras as I was growing up. These concepts have stuck with me throughout my life. I’m often asked why I chose to get involved with A Woman’s Place (AWP), and I reflect back on those mantras. For me, there was never really a question of where I would end up volunteering. It was just a matter of when. When an opportunity to join the Board of Directors at AWP, presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t entirely sure what being on the Board meant, but I was anxious to find out.

Being on the Board meant of lot of learning… about non-profits, politicians, and of course about domestic violence. I admit, I was one of those people that always said “why doesn’t she just leave?” In just one training session with AWP, I understood why it was never that easy. There are many, many complicated reasons why a woman can’t just walk away. Your financial means are likely limited as your abuser has already taken control of the bank accounts. You may not have family nearby and/or he already threatened to harm them if you went to them for help. For me it clicked when I imagined myself in the situation and knew I couldn’t leave my pets behind knowing my abuser would likely harm them to get to me. That understanding was just the beginning of what I would learn working with AWP.

In my years on the Board, I’ve done a lot of administrative work, reviewed contracts, re-written bylaws, defined strategy, reviewed job descriptions, etc. It’s given me the opportunity to help shape the future of the organization, help with fundraising, and enhance the organizations internal operations. While I don’t work directly with the women, I know that all of these things allow us to continue to offer much needed services to the clients we serve.

At times, however, it was easy to get caught up in the “paperwork” of it all and question if I was really making a difference. Then I started going to the AWP holiday party. Each December AWP holds a holiday party for our clients and their children. I get to sit down and share a meal with our clients, I help children wrap gifts for their moms, and I get to see firsthand the difference we are making for so many women and their children. It is my most favorite party that I go to each holiday season. It helps remind me what the spirit of the holiday season is really about and why I do what I do throughout the rest of the year. I am helping to make a difference in their lives.

As I look back on my time on the Board of Directors for AWP, and more recently my time as President, it feels like I’ve been doing this forever and at the same time it feels like I just started this work yesterday. My time as president has come to end and I have one year left on the Board as the outgoing President.   A lot of people are asking what I’m going to do next. I’m not entirely certain, but I do know I’ll still be volunteering with AWP where I can share my mother’s mantras with anyone willing to listen. Thank you to the staff and volunteers of AWP for a great nine years.  I look forward to volunteering for the next nine!

Kristin Ortlieb-Potts
Immediate past President, AWP Board of Directors

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