Fighting back on family violence

Advocate staff photo by CHRISTINE MORGAN ARCENEAUX -- Heather Boley is the new executive director of Women Outreaching Women, an organization that helps women and children escaping domestic violence.
Advocate staff photo by CHRISTINE MORGAN ARCENEAUX -- Heather Boley is the new executive director of Women Outreaching Women, an organization that helps women and children escaping domestic violence.

The walls in Heather Boley’s new office are nearly empty of photographs and artwork.

She’s been too busy to even think about decorating.

Since taking over three weeks ago as executive director of Women Outreaching Women, Boley has been a whirlwind of activity, starting a clothes closet, an apartment closet and a food pantry for WOW’s clients: women and children who have been abused.

And now she has some purple ribbons to distribute. A couple hundred.

The ribbons, to be distributed to parish officials and others to wear Oct. 17 in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Day in Livingston Parish, are part of her plan to get the word out about WOW’s mission and its need for volunteers.

“I’m trying to color the parish purple on that day because so much of the parish doesn’t know about us,” said Boley, who brings 10 years of office management, financial operations and grant-writing experience to WOW.

Lifelong family friend Lynn Sibley — both grew up in Denham Springs — said she believes Boley will make a difference in her new position.

“She has a heart for the need at WOW,” Sibley said. “I think that’s going to be her driving force.”

That need is a large one, Boley said.

WOW has provided 1,040 “safe” nights or safe places to stay for families since Jan. 1 and more than 16,000 safe nights to women and children since 2004, she said.

The nonprofit organization receives between 800 to 1,000 calls a day, sometimes more, Boley said.

The numbers, she said, are staggering.

To help pay for WOW programs and a new, larger shelter, Boley already has applied for five grants totaling about $200,000.

Last year, the organization was awarded $177,000 in grant money.

Some Livingston Parish schools will lend a hand by participating in Domestic Violence Awareness Day. Students can donate funds to WOW and in return will be allowed to wear casual clothes instead of uniforms.

The money raised, Boley said, will go back into WOW and safe homes which houses nine women and children.

“Most people think of us as the fireworks stand, not a domestic violence shelter,” said Boley, who decided to close the fireworks stand.

For years, WOW sold fireworks for New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July to help raise money for the organization.

Boley said she hopes to transform the former fireworks stand into a training facility where she can eventually hold GED and computer classes.

“It would help women a lot more if it were a training facility,” Boley said.

WOW serves 28 clients and the organization always needs volunteers to work the crisis hot line and to help with transportation, fundraisers, office duties and maintenance, Boley said.

“I’ve been doing community outreach since I was a child,” Boley said, adding that her new position will allow her to continue that mission.

To volunteer, call (225) 791-3940. For a schedule of upcoming events, visit www.womenowomen.com.