By Sheree Hedrick, Executive Director – Hanover Safe Place
Tell us about your current role and your professional background.
I am currently the Executive Director of Hanover Safe Place. Our program provides services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence in Hanover County and Greater Richmond. I have been in my current position for over 12 years and have seen a lot of changes and wonderful expansion of our programming over that time.
I began my career in survivor’s services when I was just out of graduate school. My first position was primarily as a counselor in Winchester, VA. During those days, though, we wore many hats. I supervised staff, provided outreach to the community, ran the volunteer program and much more – it’s hard to think back that far! It seems like so long ago.
I remember realizing early on that although I valued the services we were providing families, it felt like there was more we could be doing. As much as I tried to expand the offerings, limited funds and limited capacity didn’t allow for any additions or shifts in our work at the time. I left that program and became the Director of a Transitional Housing Program in Northern Virginia. This new opportunity was the perfect fit. Here, I was able to expand services, create new partnerships in the community and enrich the experiences of those we served. I had found my niche. I realized here that I like being a part of creating opportunities, of trying new things, of thinking differently and finding different solutions.
In total, I have worked at four nonprofits across the Commonwealth and have learned and grown with each experience. My expertise lies in forging new pathways for services, building community partnerships and enhancing existing services.
What is Hanover Safe Place’s mission?
The mission of Hanover Safe Place is to prevent sexual and domestic violence, provide services to those affected and create community awareness for support and resources.
How does Hanover Safe Place’s work support the Financial Well-being component of United Way’s Steps to Success?
Research shows that three in five Americans know someone who has been the victim of abuse. More than one in four have been abused themselves. In many of these situations, financial abuse and control are used to trap victims in abusive relationships. In fact, the number one reason women in abusive relationships can’t “just leave” is because they’re experiencing financial abuse.
Hanover Safe Place provides targeted, financial-based services that empower survivors of domestic violence to expand their opportunities for change. We provide victims of domestic violence with targeted tools and strategies to help them deal with their unique financial struggles so they can plan for safe and secure futures. Financial education and support services move survivors from safety to long-term security. These services help survivors build safer lives for themselves and their children.
Our unique, regional program works with survivors of domestic violence throughout Central Virginia. Our Financial Education Coordinator meets weekly or biweekly with survivors to assist with financial education needs. Our services include:
- Increasing income
- Balancing a checkbook
- Keeping financial records safe & confidential
- Preventing identity theft
- Building a savings
- Finding & maintaining affordable housing
- Understanding predatory lending
- Workforce development
- Managing money
- Debt management
- Child and spousal support
- Developing financial goals
- Building good credit
- Protecting against financial loss
All of our work is based on the survivor’s unique circumstances. We have found that each client has a clear set of goals and that working within those goals and assisting in achieving outcomes creates excitement for the survivor who is much more likely to “stick to” their identified financial goals.
What do you think is the biggest value United Way brings to Hanover Safe Place?
United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg has allowed us to think outside the box. I have learned so many things about survivors over the years – but the most important thing is: Just when you think you have found what works, someone new calls your hotline and their circumstances are totally unexpected and challenging! Finding a funder that will allow programs to negotiate services within our field, who understands that those of us doing the work have some of the best insight, who trusts and values the insight we bring is wonderful and remarkable!
Our financial education program has been so powerful in our work with survivors, but it has also created pathways for additional connections for services within the community. These new connections support the overall growth and well-being of the families we serve by expanding the web of support provided throughout Central Virginia.
Additionally, our Financial Education Coordinator and I have been asked to speak on a regional, state and national levels about the great work we are doing here in Richmond. Not only has United Way allowed us to create change in our community, it is also allowing us to serve as an example for services to other communities.
How have needs in our region changed over the past 10 years?
I moved to the region about 12 years ago, and for the first few years I was just trying to learn and understand all that Richmond had to offer. Back then, we all stayed in our own lane. Hanover Safe Place Provided services to Ashland and Hanover County and our partner agencies did the same in their communities. A lot has changed since then. We now work together to share services, brainstorm ideas, supports each other’s needs and even share funding; all with the goal of providing the best services possible to families in Central Virginia. This change could not have been possible if we all didn’t set our own agendas aside and concentrate on the commonalities we all share. Today we are all stronger and our services are more robust and meaningful because we have leaned on and learned from each other. It is a wonderful time to work in Central Virginia.
- Learn more about United Way’s Steps to Success and the Financial Well-being component of our work.
- Learn more about United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
- Visit Hanover Safe Place’s website.