by Jesse Steele
Gordon College News Service
SALEM — Sheila Radziewicz knew her mission in life was to help people, even before attending college.
Though her parents hoped she would gain more direction while in college, things seemed to click for Radziewicz after interning in Washington, D.C.
Soon Radziewicz began working in shelters for the nonprofit organization Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC) before moving into legal advocacy. Now you can find her as the volunteer coordinator, hard at work planning the annual Walk For HAWC on May 4 to raise money and awareness to combat domestic violence.
HAWC is a nonprofit organization that works to support victims of abuse and challenge the social norms that lead to violence and oppression. For over 35 years, the agency has been based in Salem, but it has grown to include satellite offices in Gloucester, Beverly and Lynn. And HAWC has partnered with the Cape Ann Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Abuse, the YMCA North Shore Rape Crisis Centers and with Gloucester police on projects across Cape Ann, especially over the past year.
Established in 1978, when conversations about violence became more frequent among women, HAWC came together to address a lack of shelters or call centers, according to its website. After seven months, the agency took in 74 women and 126 children while responding to more than 1,500 calls.
The organization, originally named “Help for Abused Women and Children,” soon began to realize the inclusivity that came along with such a title.
“When people would hear our name, there was an assumption we only served women with children,” said Radziewicz. “We wanted the community to realize that we’re here to serve all individuals who are experiencing domestic violence.”
The name was officially changed five years ago, and the agency has been more aware of the language used in order to include men, members of the LGBT community, single mothers and children.
In the process, the 22nd Walk For HAWC has become the organization’s biggest fundraiser and means to reach out to the community. The May event begins at Salem Commons and follows a 5-mile route around that city. This year will also feature HAWC’s third running event, which will begin at 9 a.m., with the walk to follow at noon.
Although HAWC receives grants that are specific to certain programs, the pledges Walk participants collect allow the organization to delegate where the funds go. Volunteers in the courts, for instance, also handle many legality issues victims face, but the more severe cases need more representation, which requires financial backing.
“Events like this let us put the money where it is needed most,” said executive director Anthony DiPietro.
Along with collecting funds to support HAWC’s services, walkers stand as opponents of abuse on all levels.
Radziewicz still remembers her first walk. When the horn blew, more than 1,000 people began marching through the city. As they crossed the finish line, chanting “I Will Survive,” Radziewicz said she stood in amazement.
“We, as a society, often always see the negative of things and the pain,” Radziewicz said. “I think the strength that is out there (at the walk) can make a difference.”
That’s because many of the participants are people who have been involved with HAWC in previous years through volunteering or past walks, but the organization is always trying to reach communities that aren’t aware of HAWC’s assistance.
“We never see an end to the need,” DiPietro said. “The more people we can reach the better.”
Those interested in participating as a runner or volunteer can sign up online or at the Salem office. Registration is open until the day of the event and is available on HAWC’s website at http://hawcdv.org/events/event/run-for-hawc-2014.
This article was published on the Gloucester Times’ website and can be seen at: http://www.gloucestertimes.com/local/x1387897985/HAWC-Walk-continues-fight-vs-domestic-violence