NEWS Turns 40
By Kathleen Reynolds
NEWS is a nonprofit devoted to providing safety, hope, healing and empowerment for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.
This year, NEWS celebrates its 40th Anniversary. While their dedication hasn’t changed, other aspects of the nonprofit have evolved.
NEWS had a grassroots beginning in 1981 with local Napa residents taking women and children escaping abusive relationships into their own homes for protection. The founders realized this was not a long-term solution and began Napa Emergency Women’s Services (NEWS). After 35 years, however, the agency changed its name to NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual abuse Services to reflect their support of a diverse community that not only includes women and children but also men and LGBTQ+.
Its first operating budget was about $120,000 and it had seven full and part time staff. Today, it has an operating budget of $3 million and Tracy leads a staff of 29, plus volunteers.
Sandra Re Sims is in her third term as president of the Board. She explains why NEWS is important to the community and to her personally. “I was lucky enough to have family and friends to support me, mentally and financially,” says Sandra, who has served on the Board since 2015. “The thought that someone felt trapped because of they were alone simply breaks my heart. Help gives you strength and empowers your survival. Living in fear, beats you down more and more every day. Your children grow up thinking that lifestyle is normal. The stories of our NEWS survivors keep me believing in our mission and fighting for people.”
NEWS assists approximately 1500 individuals each year. Their team runs a shelter for women and children and another for men. They house three to four families a month and provide rental assistance to many more. In 2020-21 fiscal year, the NEWS housing team helped 44 families find new housing.
“NEWS helps clients recover their dignity and power over their own lives,” explains Sandra. “It gives them strength to basically start again. We help with housing, expenses, counseling, family support and educating people of the services available to help them become self-sufficient. We do outreach to the schools, teaching prevention and awareness. We tell young people signs to be aware of in relationships. We build their self-esteem to help them realize their value. Most of all we provide safety and compassion.”
Danis Kreimeier has been involved with NEWS since 2006 and serves as vice president of the Board. “During the Covid lock down, the incidents of domestic violence increased. The stress on families and relationships were intensified. Imagine being in lock down with you abuser. The pandemic magnified the importance of NEWS services.”
“Everyone deserves safety regardless of their situation or economic status. NEWS provides many resources and program for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, counseling, help with the legal system, finding safe housing, and education. From crisis intervention, prevention and education, housing and shelter services, survivors and their families are never alone to navigate the many challenges they may face.”
Tracy Lamb, Executive Director of NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services, states that not a day goes by without a call from someone needing help.
“Immediate safety is our first priority,” says Tracy. “We may provide shelter, perhaps at an emergency hotel, but we can also help with protective orders. We discuss options with the person so they can decide what is the best thing for them to be safe.”
“What’s most important to understand is that domestic violence and sexual abuse affects all of us,” she continues. “It is pervasive in our community. What we do is so much more than shelter, it’s far-reaching. Almost everyone has been connected in some way or another to family, neighbors, friends or co-workers who have experienced it.”
“When you consider how much money is spent in the community for the systems affected by it—the court system, hospitals, mental health services, drug and alcohol help. We need to focus on intergenerational prevention by involving youth in awareness.”
Tracy adds, “We have to create a cultural change to stop abuse from happening. We must stop thinking that victims have a weakness or that it can’t happen to them or to those with means. It crosses all socio-economic backgrounds. So often people abusing others came from abusive homes themselves.
We don’t want to demonize that person. They need help.”
“We ask questions to determine the best course for each individual. Is staying in the situation helping or enabling? What is the cost? Is it your safety? Your child’s? Each person has to weigh the decision for their own lives.”
“We’re often asked why the victim doesn’t just leave the abuser and we explain you have to put yourself in their shoes,” says Tracy. “They hope for change and have to believe that things will get better.”
NEWS relies on donations and grants. Grants are necessary but can be frustrating because they dictate what services can be offered. Tracy wishes they had the freedom to say what is needed and provide it.
“We are grateful to grants and the services they allow us to provide,” says Tracy. “We wish we could have the independence to listen to survivors and do more prevention.”
Since COVID essentially eliminated all in-person fundraising for over a year, NEWS postponed an in-person event to celebrate their impact on the community and recognize 40 heroes over the years. They are hoping to raise $10,000 with their “$40 for 40 years” campaign, asking donors to contribute a factor of $40 for their anniversary.
As Danis Kreimeier says, “NEWS is there for you, please be there for NEWS and donate to keep this important work going. $40 for 40 years.”