Willow Domestic Violence Center and Deaf IGNITE have come together in a formal partnership that will enhance services for deaf survivors of domestic abuse.
The two nonprofits have had an informal partnership for nearly a decade, but the new collaboration will combine the infrastructure strength and community partnerships of Willow with the specialized services for deaf survivors of violence offered by IGNITE.
“Joining forces with Willow is a win-win situation for both organizations,” said Susan Demers-McLetchie, executive director for Deaf IGNITE. “It allows us access to their wealth of resources, which will enhance our quality of services for deaf survivors.”
Greater Rochester is home to the nation’s largest deaf population per capita, officials noted. A recent study of 1,900 students at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf found that deaf individuals were 150 percent more likely to fall victim to domestic violence.
Willow Center’s public office in downtown Rochester will now be home to Deaf IGNITE at Willow Center. Willow will provide administrative, grant writing and funding stream support, while Deaf IGNITE will become a program within Willow with access to all of Willow’s additional programs including hospital, counseling, court, shelter, advocacy, hotline and special initiatives. The affiliation leverages established relationships Willow has built over the last four decades through a vast network of partners, including service providers, law enforcement, the court system, the Hall of Justice and area hospital systems.
“This partnership will strengthen the ways our community responds to domestic violence and increase access to quality services provided in a culturally accessible way,” said Willow President and CEO Meaghan de Chateauvieux. “IGNITE brings a tremendous legacy, skillset and vital knowledge in the unique needs of deaf survivors that will be shared with the larger Willow team of 40-plus advocates.”
Susan Demers-McLetchie and Brittany Ellenbecker join the Willow team to lead the Deaf IGNITE Program at Willow Center. They also will support Willow Center staff with educational opportunities in deaf culture and American Sign Language training to ensure deaf survivors feel safe and welcome at Willow.
Deaf IGNITE’s Board Chair Kelly Metz Davis will now serve as a Willow Center board member and chair of the Deaf IGNITE Program advisory committee, which will ensure the IGNITE brand and legacy will carry forward as a beacon of hope for deaf survivors, officials said.
The partnership was made possible by the United Way Synergy Fund, which lends technical assistance and reorganizational support for non-profit mergers.
“This is an example of the power of United Way’s Synergy Fund to support nonprofits in finding alignment and exploring opportunities to strengthen services and fulfill their core mission,” said Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. “This affiliation of Willow Domestic Violence Center and Deaf IGNITE builds on the strengths of each organization to best serve survivors of intimate partner violence by providing services and support that empowers survivors and provides much-needed safety.”
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