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Tiff doesn't diminish value of domestic violence shelter

My late grandmother often told a story about how a battered wife who lived next door took the drastic step of killing her husband with a butcher knife in their kitchen.

"We heard her call her mother on the phone and tell her to call the police to have them remove the body."

That was 1924.

In the generations that have followed, domestic abuse has remained a pervasive problem both in our country and in our community. The same type of violent tragedies my grandmother witnessed still occur today with alarming frequency.

Each of us should want to be a part of providing solutions. It's why I've always supported the Spring of Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's 33-year-old domestic violence shelter.

A recent Times story chronicled past internal struggles at the Spring between former workers and volunteers and its relatively new executive director, Joanne Lighter. Some may have read the story and wondered if the Spring deserves continued support.

I read it and wondered: How can I help more?

I don't disavow the concerns raised by those quoted in the article. I'm certain they believe they did the right thing by airing their disagreements.

Yet I also know members of the volunteer board whose support of Lighter is unwavering. In assuming control in 2008, Lighter was told by the board to streamline expenses, a task made all the more daunting by the faltering economy and a decline in donations.

While bringing greater efficiency to the Spring, feelings were fractured. We've seen it happen before in both the public and private sector when there is a leadership change.

Board members insist the strife has ended and the new Spring is on the way to being better. They say private donations are up from this time last year.

But let's not take sides.

The question of who's right and who's wrong can never take away from the higher purpose of the shelter. The goal of saving lives, nurturing innocent children and bringing peace to deserving families can't take a back seat to the controversy that arose over Lighter's initial changes.

If a series of disputes ever adversely affects the greater mission of this noble organization, we, as a community, will share in the blame.

Each of us must ask, "How do we strengthen the efforts of the Spring?"

No question matters more because, in our community, domestic violence and murder-suicide have become all too common.

As for Lighter, I'm convinced the board recognizes that the mission is larger than any single person. I trust it will do what's in the shelter's best interest. It's why they volunteer to serve.

So I won't call the Spring and ask for Lighter's head. I will call Lighter and ask how can I help her get ahead.

In the final analysis, there are only three options when it comes to involvement with the Spring's critical mission: lead, follow or get of the way.

I chose to follow, with a greater sense of purpose.

That's all I'm saying.

Tiff doesn't diminish value of domestic violence shelter 06/08/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 12:12am]

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