Saturday, January 31, 2015

Helen's tagging, sorting and packing party

“In the coming legislative session you will have an opportunity to pass a bill that will be an expression of one of the first principles of government, public safety.  It's called Violent Habitual Offender Bill, SF 23.” — Karl Schilling, president of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, in a letter to the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee

Monday night, January 26, Helen's Pajama Party held a working party at Great Southern Bank in Ankeny to get 870 pairs of pajamas ready for delivery to the 13 regional domestic violence shelters in Iowa.

It was a group effort from inception to completion. Pat VanLent from the Omega Nu chapter of Phi Tau Omega, an adult women's sorority, contacted me to ask if her group could host a pajama party. She and other members had been to one in the past, and thought Helen's mission a worthy one.

I'll be honest, keeping shelters supplied with pajamas is a Sisyphean challenge, and I'd taken a bit of a hiatus, but Pat's call got me moving again.

The next step was finding place to hold the event. Paul and I happened to be in our Great Southern Bank a few days later, and I looked around at the spacious lobby and thought, "Hey, maybe we could have it here." Tammy Zook, who manages the North Delaware branch, liked the idea, and after checking with the home office, it was a go.

In the meantime, Floyd and Kathy Hammer, founders of Outreach — a remarkable non-profit building hospitals and schools and providing fresh water and food to people in Tanzania — had been storing the pajamas for me that have continued to be donated, unbidden, by generous community members, and they loaned us a big ol' truck so we could haul them from their warehouse to the bank.

Through Karl Schillingfriend and president of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, I learned about a bill currently in the legislature to prevent more Iowans from becoming victims, and I met the primary author, Tiffany Allison.

If you don't already know Tiffany, here's a little bit about how and why she has become such tireless advocate on behalf of victims and Senate File 23

In 2009 she was the victim of an especially brutal assault. The front page story in the newspaper described it using words such as felony assault, false imprisonment, beaten with hands, knees, feet and a wrought iron cross, numerous bite marks on her body, beaten to unconsciousness, urinated on.

During his trial, Tiffany discovered that she was was her abuser’s fifth victim!

Yet when convicted of his crimes against Tiffany, her abuser was given only a 2½-year sentence and served just 10 months before being released. Within two years after her abuser’s release, he again violently re-offended. This time he permanently disfigured his victim’s face.

Although sentenced to 15 years for this, his sixth offense offense, he will most likely be released after serving only 1½ to three years.

As a result of her real-life experiences, Tiffany wrote the Violent Habitual Offender Bill (SF 23) to protect herself and the rest of us by making sure that serially violent offenders get longer sentences and serve more of the sentences they're given.

I invited Tiffany and Senator Matt McCoy, Senate sponsor of SF 23,  to speak at the pajama party and I was honored that they did.

I was fortunate to have media support for the event. Erin Kiernan from WHO-13, who's been a loyal advocate of Helen's from the beginning, and KCCI gave us air time to promote our efforts and help us get the word out about this important bill.

Everyone pitched in, and as a result, the whole process from start to finish was fast and efficient. Tammy's husband, Bill, and Evan Wyer, manager of the other Great Southern Bank in Ankeny, were such a help with carrying and setting up. And how fun that most everyone wore their pajamas! It was after all, a pajama party!

But the person who hands down did by far and away the most work was my devoted husband, Paul. He worked for three solid days loading the truck, unloading the truck, schlepping heavy, 8-foot tables from storage to our office and from their to the bank, helping me make fliers, running to the printer, buying supplies, making three trips during the party alone to get things we either ran out of or I forgot. He is the wonderfulest!! He really is.

Our goal was to pack 870 pairs of pajamas. We would have made it except that we ran entirely out of size 1-X, so if you are in a position to buy a few pairs of 1-X's, and get them to me, please do. 

Karl on the end (where are your jim-jams, Karl?) and me in the light blue jammies. 

Tiffany and Senator Matt McCoy.

Great Southern Bank team members.

We packed a lot of jammies.

The Omega Nu chapter of Phi Tau Omega, Tiffany and me.

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