FORT KENT– With domestic violence and sexual harassment a topic in the national news nearly every day, the work of the Hope and Justice Project (HJP), formerly known as the Battered Women’s Project, is an important resource and service that is available in Aroostook County. In 2010, the name was changed to HJP to promote the positive work of assisting people who are facing domestic violence by offering safe places and support services.
In service to the public for thirty years, the primary mission of HJP is to serve the needs of the people affected by domestic abuse and violence, while working to end domestic violence in Aroostook County. From October 2016 through September of 2017, HJP served over one thousand individuals, answered 8,400 calls on the hotline, provided 4,800 hours of advocacy and sheltered approximately one hundred individuals. HJP emphasizes that it also provides education and training programs that encourage and support safe, joyful relationships. In their role to create awareness, they also educate the public to recognize and understand the nature of abuse and violence.
For a second consecutive year, Stacy Theriault, a Certified Nursing Assistant at Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC), has led an initiative to support the critical work performed by the HJP to raise awareness and provide safety to victims of domestic violence. Theriault has been employed in long term and acute rehab settings with NMMC for nearly twenty six years. She is a strong advocate in engaging patients to be involved in various projects as part of the patient’s physical rehabilitation. In this example, she has incorporated the support of the rehabilitation patients on the Swing Unit at NMMC to create Giving Bags filled with personal hygiene items donated by NMMC employees, family members and friends. She named them Giving Bags to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday season.
This year, backpacks were also donated and filled with items for the children staying in the shelters. The backpacks include such items as crayons, coloring books and school supplies. Cash donations were also received in lieu of articles and will be used to support the shelters.
Theriault said, “The outpouring from NMMC is amazing”. When Theriault welcomed attendees at the celebration on Nov. 22 , she said, “I am lucky to go home to a safe and loving environment at the end of my day. I try to teach my own children about treating each other with respect.” She said many times people ask her why she supports this particular cause because she herself is not directly affected; her reply is simple. “Why not? We read about domestic violence in the newspaper, on Facebook, or TV every day. So I do it is because everyone knows someone who has been affected–a mother, a daughter, a granddaughter or a niece.”
She challenged everyone at the event to take action and make a difference. Tammy Albert, Volunteer and Prevention Coordinator for HJP, was in attendance at the Nov. 22 event. While accepting the donations she said, “Many times individuals and families arrive at the shelter with only the clothes on their backs.”
She said any time a new resident moves to one of the shelters, they are provided with one of the bags filled with personal hygiene supplies. In addition to temporary housing, educational needs around violence and coordination of legal services are some of the other services made available. Albert said, “We support them and offer them options. We only suggest; we encourage them to make their own decisions.”
To complete the service options, HJP manages a confidential 24 hour hotline as well as face to face advocacy services. HJP offers a support group which encompasses education on the dynamics of domestic violence. The group meets every Tuesday in a private location.
Members of the public interested in community based training or victims and survivors interested in attending support groups may call the local HJP office at 834-6349. More information about the project is available online at www.hopeandjusticeproject.org or by calling 1-800- 439-2323.
To learn more about NMMC’s many services, to make a donation or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.nmmc.org and Like us on Facebook!