Response is small, but important | AspenTimes.com

Response is small, but important

John Colson
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Response may be one of Aspen’s smaller nonprofit organizations, but for those who need its services, size is not the issue.

Founded in 1983 by longtime advocate Peg McGavock, Response helps more than 400 people annually ” mostly women, but some men and children, too ” who deal with the trauma and fear that comes from being battered.

In fact, the term “battered” is part of the organization’s formal name ” Response: Help for Battered Women.

“But we’re in the process of changing that,” said Sandra Dukas, who has worked with McGavock for the past decade (McGavock was out of town and could not be reached for comment).

The future name, Response: Help for Victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, would better reflect the nonprofit’s mission, Dukas said.

“Actually, we’re help for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, period,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not just women.” She said Response typically helps as many as 10 men a year who are victims of domestic violence.

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Although Response is supposed to serve victims in Pitkin and Eagle counties only, Dukas said, there are some clients from Carbondale who use the organization’s services, which include everything from a crisis hotline staffed seven days a week, 24 hours a day by volunteer advocates, to legal help with court or other law enforcement matters, to the provision of “safe house” quarters at half a dozen local hotels, which offer rooms for free for up to three nights.

Response also has started support groups for victims. The Aspen group is for English speakers, while a group conducted in Basalt is in the Spanish language ” and Dukas said both groups are open to anyone, from anywhere in the valley, although they recommend that people from Glenwood Springs or western Garfield County contact the Advocate Safe House, a sister agency in Glenwood.

One Response staffer is known as the “legal advocate” (no names are given, out of concern for client confidentiality and advocate safety) offering legal advice, help with court procedures and documents and other services.

Dukas and McGavock are two of the organization’s five paid employees, though one works by contract and is not on salary. The Form 990 federal tax form for 2005 ” the most recent year available ” shows a total of $122,395 in salaries and wages paid out that year.

The advocates, who number between 20-25 at any given time, are all volunteers who make themselves available to respond to victims in crisis, regardless of the time of day or night. Part of the mission of Response is to offer 30 hours of training for its volunteers, over a three-week period. One such training session is planned for spring, Dukas said, adding that “we’re always looking for more volunteers.”

The organization’s income comes from a combination of contributions from individuals, grants from government and income from investments.

According to its 2005 tax filing, Response took in a total of $82,250 in direct public donations that year, compared to $88,703 in government grants. When combined with dividends and interest from securities, and $6,418 from Response’s sole charity event ” the Chocolate Classic ” comes to a total of $181,915. That represented a slight decrease from the year before, when Response’s total income was $224,613.

Dukas said the numbers of clients has grown in recent years, though she attributed the growth to the fact that Response is better known in general, and to her belief that “people are less afraid to call for help, than they used to be.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that domestic violence is rising,” she stressed, noting that local police and judges can always be counted on for referrals.

Dukas said the Chocolate Classic, which used to be an annual event, but now takes place only every couple of years, is scheduled for Feb. 6 at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen.

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com.

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