The doorbell at Women's Aid in Crisis rings at 10:45 p.m. It is a police officer accompanied by a woman and three children, who are all barefoot, with no coats, no personal items of any kind - just faces full of fear. While this family is being settled in to one of the five bedrooms at the shelter, the phone rings. On the other end of the line someone is sobbing, unable for the longest time to tell the advocate that she has just been severely beaten and raped. Sadly, this often constitutes a normal day at Women's Aid in Crisis.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, numerous WAIC board members and volunteers will leave the Elkins Depot, concurrently walking the 26 miles from Elkins to Buckhannon to raise awareness and funding. This destination was chosen because WAIC's first funded outreach office opened in Upshur County in the late 1980s. Currently, there are offices in Upshur, Barbour, Tucker, Braxton and Webster counties, with the shelter and executive offices located in Randolph County. A celebration will be held at the Upshur County Courthouse at the conclusion of the walk.
WAIC was incorporated in 1979 as a domestic and sexual violence program. What began as a grassroots, volunteer program has grown into an organization serving six counties and assisting as many as 1,500 women, children and men who are victims of domestic or sexual violence or stalking each year. WAIC services are free, confidential and provided around the clock, each and every day of the year.
"The median age of our walkers is 50, with many of us having dealt with some very serious health issues," said one of the walkers, Marcia Drake, WAIC executive director. "Three walkers have survived one or more bouts with cancer, one has undergone numerous surgeries over the last few years and another has diabetes. This individual undertaking by each walker will significantly stretch our physical limits, with the internal awareness that survivors of violence must endure great struggles just to make it through one day. We honor them, and we want to always be the voice on the other end of the phone when they need us.
"Our agency is facing some severe funding cuts in the next year, and we are counting on the dollars raised at this event to help sustain our crisis hotline, and a person to answer that call."
Judy Seaman, committee chairperson for this event, said, "Although domestic or sexual violence does not touch every person, it almost always touches someone they know ... a family member; a co-worker; a friend. Pledges may be made for each mile walked, or be for any amount the donor chooses. A person may want to give in memory of a mother who experienced domestic violence, in honor of a friend who escaped a violent home, of a child who survived physical or sexual violence, or in gratitude for a life free from violence. These names or memories can be shared or held confidential."
Drake said she celebrated 20 years as WAIC's executive director on March 1.
"I have been blessed and humbled to do this critical, and at times, lifesaving work, but there is so much more that needs done," she said. "My goal for this event is to walk the mountain from the Randolph County line to the Upshur County line, crossing through all of Barbour County on Corridor H.
"This walk will certainly be a physical challenge for me. On June 1, the date of our walk nine years ago, I was preparing to leave the hospital after quintuple heart bypass. Walking this difficult 4.5 miles will be a celebration of life for me, and a very concrete way to honor those who endure unimaginable pain and suffering at the hands of those who profess to love them."
"I am thankful for the many friends and business associates I have made over all these years, so if I don't get the chance to personally ask that you sponsor me in this walk, I am counting on your support," Drake continued. "Please give what you can to help WAIC help victims and survivors. It truly does take a village."
Drake also will walk as a representative of the Domestic Violence Project of the GFWC Woman's Club of Elkins.
To sponsor any of the walkers, donations can be sent to Women's Aid in Crisis, P. O. Box 2062, Elkins WV 26241.