Activities help bring awareness to domestic violence issues

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By John Barnhart

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and Bedford Domestic Violence Services has events scheduled for the month to raise awareness and funds for the non-profit organization.

    The first event is their 5th Annual Bikers Against Domestic Violence ride, slated for Oct. 6. It starts at The Kirk, on Thomas Jefferson Road (Va. 811) in Forest. The church will hold a biker service at 10:30 a.m. and riders start out at 1:30 p.m. Registration starts at noon and is $10 per biker and $5 per passenger. The registration fee can be paid in cash or in supplies for the battered women’s shelter. A list of items they need can be seen on Bedford Domestic Violence Services’ Facebook page.
    “That’s a fun event,” commented Leanne Dudley, Bedford Domestic Violence Services’ director.
    The weather didn’t cooperate with them last year. Dudley said it rained all day but “a rainy, cold dreary day” didn’t dampen turnout. It netted them as much money as the previous year’s run.
    Their Purple Gala (purple is the official color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month) is slated for Oct. 24 at the Elks National Home from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
    The Gala is a major fundraising event for them — last year’s netted $17,000 — and Dudley said that this year’s will be special because Bedford County has purchased the building that houses their shelter that provides refuge for women, and their children, fleeing a violent situation at home. Dudley said Bedford Domestic Violence Services will make payments to the county and currently has $105,000 already raised for that purpose.
    “Permanence” is the one word Dudley used in describing the importance of the county’s decision to buy the building.
    “Permanence is wonderful,” she said.
    Dudley said their facility is currently in its fourth location since Bedford Domestic Violence Services began in 1997. It’s the third location for the shelter, which first opened in 2001.
    Moving is difficult for them because they have to make sure that there is no disruption in services during the transition. A move also adds chaos to the already chaotic situation that their clients are experiencing.
    “This is a really nice location where we are at,” Dudley said, giving another reason why they don’t want to move.
    Now, they don’t have to worry about having to move.
    The Gala features a silent auction that will begin at 7 p.m. and a live auction that begins at 8 p.m. Items include vacation packages, artwork, gift baskets donated by local businesses and “a beautiful piece of jewelry from Arthur’s,” Dudley said.
    Finally, there is a candlelight vigil and walk on Oct. 29, beginning at 5:43 p.m. It starts on the steps of the Bedford County Courthouse and ends at a stone bench on Bedford Avenue, across from the Bower Center.  The bench and the small garden surrounding it are in memory of Sherrie Connor who was murdered in a domestic violence incident. The candles used in the walk are not real candles. They’re electronic candles. Dudley said she was very happy when they became available a few years ago as open flames tend to make her uneasy.
    “Judge Harrison is going to give the keynote address that evening,” Dudley said.
    She said Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Louis Harrison understands the dynamics of domestic violence and is a big supporter of her organization.
    The recipients of three annual awards are announced at the end of this walk. The Yancy Award goes to a volunteer who has gone above and beyond what would normally be expected. The Purple Ribbon is given to an allied professional. Dudley said it was created in honor of Sherrie Conner, who, as a social worker with the Bedford County Department of Social Services, was an allied professional. Dudley said it will go to a person in the criminal justice field this year. The third award, the Ruby Award, goes to person who has shown excellence in supporting victims of domestic violence. Dudley said this year’s award goes to a law enforcement officer