A Freedom Story

From a Libera group member:

In January of 2017, I was invited to a book club by a parent of one of my favorite students.  I have NEVER socialized with a student’s parent but there were 2 other women from the school system attending and I was curious about the concept. 

Rarely have I seen anything come through that is free, valuable, and truly without strings attached (come to my church, buy my book, etc.)  I thought it was a little too good to be true so when life interfered and I missed the first two meetings, I assumed I was too late.  However, I wasn’t.  One of the ladies at work loaned me her book.  I read the first chapter and I was hooked.  The leaders met with me on their own time to catch me up and give me my own book/journal.

My story, mine—possessive, was something I had never thought about.  My freedom was certainly something I had never considered.  I am an American.  I am pretty free. However, what I discovered was that I was fighting so hard to live a life I was slave to.  Built on beliefs I did not chose for myself.  My whole life, I have been happy to hand the pen to someone else and offer them their take on a chapter in my life. 

Libera allowed me, for the first time, to look at myself and other women with-out judgement.  Libera allowed me the space and the sisterhood to sit with my pain, recognize my hurt and strength, hear my struggle acknowledged, and courage to let it go. 

Libera means freedom.  And that is exactly what it has introduced me to. 

BIG NEWS!

We are very excited to announce that Libera is hiring two new staff members mid August! This will allow us to expand much more rapidly around the state, as well as meet the individual needs of women and teens in West Virginia. We are expanding our services to high school girls [previously we have only worked with 18-75 year olds] and will begin some high school groups in the near future. 

We are hiring a full time counselor, Jessica Haring,  and a part time program director, Vanessa Short. The counselor will be available to meet with women individually, and will also go out with us on some of our bus visits to the 55 counties of West Virginia. Welcome, Vanessa and Jessie!

Read more about them below in their bios. More news to follow soon on groups and upcoming events!

Jessica Haring, Counselor

Jessica (Jessie), was born and raised in West Virginia. She received her BFA at WVU in 2012 with concentrations in both painting and photography and graduated with her Master of Arts in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando in May 2017. She has years of experience with children and teens in different capacities and is passionate about giving them a place to be heard and mentored. In her nearly 500 hours of internship, she has worked with couples, individuals, teens, and children as well as led an Art Therapy group for her peers. She hopes to incorporate creative methods into her counseling practice and be a safe place for women from all walks of life to find someone to walk alongside them in their journey to freedom. In her free time she loves eating good food, going on adventures and pursuing artistic endeavors. 

VANESSA SHORT, PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Vanessa Short is a native West Virginian. She currently resides in Barbour County WV with her husband of 24 years. Together they have two children. Vanessa has a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. She will begin an academic adventure in the fall of 2018 as she will be pursuing a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work. She has over ten years’ experience working with women in various capacities helping them soar to their individual definitions of success. Currently she volunteers as a sexual assault advocate. Vanessa is passionate about community engagement and believes that community involvement is part of positive citizenship. Currently she facilitates a book club for women in her community that emphasizes interpersonal development, self-discovery and personal growth, while creating an environment for supportive relationships to develop and deepen. She lives and works from a horizontal perspective and believes that we (women) all have a rich offering of self to bring to the table that will enrich, empower, and impact each other’s life. Vanessa believes that life, growth, and overcoming is best addressed from an integrative holistic approach. She enjoys going on adventures with her husband and family time together with him and their children, laughing and simply being. She is a decorating, party hosting diva who enjoys entertaining, crafting in a variety of modalities, and a great flea market find.

 

A Big "THANK YOU!"

 

Thank you so much to all of you who made Libera’s first “Walk Across the State” a success! We appreciate those of you walked and got pledges, whether you walked 3 miles or 20 miles! We are also very grateful to each and every donor. Each dollar makes a difference! And finally, thank you to our corporate sponsors: Chestnut Ridge Church, always leading the way in supporting Libera; Phoenix Bakery, Pies & Pints, and Feast to West Cafe. We would also like to take this opportunity to again thank Premier Chevrolet Buick GMC for the complete funding of the purchase of our Libera bus, Libby! The Walk raised over $5,000 to keep Libby traveling around the state.

http://www.wvalways.com/clip/13289342/libera-walk

https://www.theet.com/statejournal/fundraising-walk-to-empower-women-get-group-attention/article_692cab71-b0a9-5ad6-9542-1cc6e423ca34.html

 

 

April Milestones!

We've reached some big milestones in the last month!

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Libera bus has now traveled to all 55 counties in West Virginia!!
  • We made some vital connections around the state with educators, leaders and state officials
  • We attended Women’s and Girl’s Day at the WV Legislature and Libera wristbands were handed out to everyone in attendance
  • Libera is working with 2 classes through the WVU Center for Service and Learning
  • We have passed out over 12,000 rack cards in every county of the state!
  • We are following up with many women who have completed the Libera groups, connecting them to specific resources to overcome their barriers, and encouraging them to pursue the dreams they have
  • We started several new Libera model groups; we are expanding to reach other counties [see below]

GROUPS

  • 5 Libera groups are currently running in Mon [3 groups], Marion and Barbour Counties
  • We are starting groups in Preston, Tyler and Taylor Counties in the next months
  • An Upshur County group is being planned for the summer.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Delivering suitcases filled with supplies for domestic violence survivors to shelters in Mon, Marion and Randolph Counties
  • Walk Across the State, April 21-23 [see our previous blog post on this, or go to www.99pledges.com/fund/libera to sponsor a walker. you can also plan to walk and email us at: liberawv@gmail.com]
  • “Chosen” showing at Philip Barbour H.S.
  • Speaking to NCWV Women’s Giving Circle, April 27
  • Libera Workshop being planned for Charleston

Do you want to help West Virginia women find freedom? Get involved!

Libera Walk Across the State

We walk for freedom! Libera is about empowering West Virginia women to live in freedom, whether it’s physical, emotional, relational or intellectual freedom. We walk for women all around the state who need to find their identity, their voice, their strength, and their purpose. We are doing this walk to create awareness of what Libera does; to help us connect with women around the state; and to raise funds to support our Libera mobile as it travels to every county in West Virginia, to meet with women where they live and help them overcome the barriers they face.

Want to walk? You can walk 1 mile, 3 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, or even 20 miles! Yes, we are going to have some walkers who have committed to walking 20 miles. We will be hiking portions 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13 on this WV Rail Trails map:

http://www.wvcommerce.org/App_Media/Assets/publications/travelrec/WVRailTrailBrochure.pdf

We will have teams starting on both sides of the state on Friday, April 21. One team will start on the eastern side of the state, in Reedsville. The other team will start on the western side of the state, in Parkersburg. We will meet in the middle on Sunday, April 23 at approximately 3pm in Wolf Summit, WV.

Want to support the cause? You can sponsor a walker.

Go to this link: https://99pledges.com/fund/Libera

 

Year End Wrap Up and "Thank Yous"

We wanted to highlight a few things we’ve done at the end of December, and thank some people who’ve made all that has happened this past year with Libera possible.

Look for a post in the next few weeks about plans for the coming year, and our annual report.

The last couple weeks we:

  • visited Boone, Kanawha and Ohio Counties
  • helped several women from domestic violence scenarios connect with financial, physical, emotional and relational help
  • followed up with many women from our last Libera groups and workshop, connecting them with resources to overcome their barriers
  • placed hundreds of rack cards with the human trafficking hotline along Interstate 70 near Wheeling, a known area and transportation pipeline for trafficking
  • participated in the WV Human Trafficking Task Force meeting
  • met with the Executive Director of the WV Women’s Commission about potential Libera workshops/groups in the Charleston area, and also wrote letters to delegates supporting the WV Women’s Commission
  • laid some groundwork for Libera workshops and groups in/at:
    • Fairmont State
    • Hope, Inc.
    • Barbour County
    • Monongalia County- both adult women and college students
    • Kanawha County

We have some big “thank you’s” to give out! So many people have helped Libera’s first full year as a 501(c)3 be transformational for many women.

  • First, we must thank the founders of Libera and the Libera model: Nnenna Minimah, Tamara Miller, Carla Weaver, Alise Chaffins, Barb Ruggieri, Cathleen Kealey, Karen Haring.
  • A huge thank you to the Libera board, who help move us forward and keep us in line with the vision and mission: Nnenna Minimah, Tamara Miller, Darla Hickey, Alise Chaffins, Nikky Luna, Gary Jarrell, Troy Ball, Barbara Myers.
  • We thank our Advisory Board who counsel us and help us move forward: Thomas R. Schroeder, Melissa Watkins, Dorinda Kisner, and Ann d’Auteuil Bartolo.
  • A shout out to our Listeners [what we call mentors], who help lead groups, meet with women, and are being trained to carry Libera forward: Teresa Martin, Gigi Hefner, Pearl Bingham-Marrow, Kim Sheets, Carla Weaver, Tamara Miller, Kelsey Riggi, Darla Hickey, Stephanie Pendley, Joan McKay, Ivy Guiler, Jessie Haring.
  • Our first sponsor “thank you” must go to Chestnut Ridge Church, for their very generous funding commitment to help launch Libera. They have made Libera possible this first full year as a 501(c)3.
  • Our second sponsor “thank you” must go to Premier Chevrolet Buick GMC and John and Helen Cognac for their extremely generous donation of funds for our Libera bus, Libby. They helped get us up and going and on the road.
  • Huge thanks to the North Central West Virginia Women’s Giving Circle for their grant to allow our Listeners to attend a 2 day training in Miami, to become better equipped to listen to women’s stories, identify barriers they face, and help them overcome them.
  • Thank you to MedExpress for their recent generous donation to Libera.
  • Thank you to Your Community Foundation and Mavis Grant and George W. Lilley Jr. Community Enhancement Fund for the donation to purchase supplies for the Libera bus- resources such as books, CDs and Libera model workbooks to help women address their barriers.
  • All of our “100 club” donors who are an ongoing support to Libera: Sue Kesey, Barbara Ruggieri, Derek & Sarah Jones, Moe & Janie Rubenstein, Tim & Karen Haring. These people have committed to giving $100 a month to Libera, to help sustain the work that we are doing to empower West Virginia women.And to the many others who have generously donated to Libera this year, we thank you!

And to the many others who have generously donated to Libera this year: monthly, once, or with volunteer service and in kind gifts like bus batteries, we thank you!

October Happenings

Have you wondered what Libera is all about? Do you have limited time, but want to take steps to overcome your barriers and find more freedom?

Don’t miss the LIBERA MODEL ONE DAY WORKSHOP!

More info and registration here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/libera-one-day-workshop-tickets-27850213739

Here is a brief story of how Libera has impacted one of the women we serve:

“Libera has helped me so much.I was in an abusive relationship with no where to turn, no family who would support me.Luckily I had people at work tell me about Libera and then I started to attend.My experience with this group has been excellent. I now realize that there are people who care and there are people just like me and there are people who you can talk to when you have no where to turn.”

She now wants to go out on the bus with us, to meet other women and tell her story.

Here are some highlights of what we’ve been doing over the last 4 weeks:

  • We spoke to a local women’s group that had previously passed out rack cards with the human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault hotlines. One woman said 8 or the 10 cards she placed had been taken. It’s a good sign that women are getting connected to the help they need.
  • We spoke to the Women’s Giving Circle of North Central West Virginia, who funded the 10,000 rack cards [see above] that we are placing around Mon, Marion, Taylor, Harrison and Preston counties. We shared stories of a few women who have found more freedom and empowerment through Libera.
  • We have passed out over 400 rack cards that were funded by Libera in other counties around the state.
  • Two WVU classes, a communication and a leadership class, are now placing 1500 of the rack cards around Mon county in hotels, nail and beauty salons, gas stations and truck stops, and bars.
  • We had a spectacular Wednesday where we were able to take a woman to the Marion County Prosecutor’s office, and keep her with us on the bus all day until her former partner, who was out of jail and threatening her, was secured in the North Central Regional Jail. We were also able to reach out to many women in Harrison County that day, and we made a strong connection with a woman at Fairmont State. She will also be a great connection to women in Barbour County. The final effort that day was our new group in Marion County.
  • We followed up with several women who have completed the Libera groups,connected them to specific resources to overcome their barriers, and encouraged them to pursue the dreams they have.
  • We started two new Libera model groups; we are expanding to reach other counties, as we started the first group in Marion County.
  • We made some new connections with women in Martinsburg, Elkins, and Beckley. 
  • We attended an exciting conference put on by the West Virginia Women’s Commission, “College Dreams Ignited.” We listened to author Carol Leary discuss her book, “Achieving the Dream,” heard stories of women who overcame obstacles to obtain degrees in higher education, and had some great networking and collaboration time with women from around the state. We were able to get many copies of “Achieving the Dream” to help resource women who are looking to overcome intellectual barriers to freedom.  We became much better equipped to help women pursue higher education. We found out that WV ranks the lowest of the 50 states for women with bachelor’s degrees-19%. We want to change that! We were also able to make good connections to further connect women to resources in the future.