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Anew is helping educate young and old to prevent domestic violence

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What better way to give an impression than through a name.

Anew: Building Beyond Violence and Abuse is a new name for a 40-year-old agency that’s doing work to support domestic violence victims and prevent harm.

The name change took effect in September 2021, and the response has been supportive and encouraging, said Jennifer Gabrenya, executive director.

What better way to give an impression than through a name.

Anew: Building Beyond Violence and Abuse is a new name for a 40-year-old agency that’s doing work to support domestic violence victims and prevent harm.

The name change took effect in September 2021, and the response has been supportive and encouraging, said Jennifer Gabrenya, executive director.

Jennifer Gabrenya
Jennifer Gabrenya

“We’ve had such great feedback. We were very careful in going through this process. The agency has been around for 40 years. We knew we had to be extremely thoughtful in how we were going about the rebrand,” she said.

Supporters have told her the name and the logo “feel hopeful to them, caring and clean and fresh” and have called it “a great fit” for the agency.

Gabrenya says adding the tagline Building Beyond Violence and Abuse “set the vision for our agency and let people know what we’re all about.”

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The new logo that was unveiled in September 2021

Many will remember South Suburban Family Shelter, the original name of the nonprofit based in Homewood. Gabrenya said there were discussions for about five years on changing the name, and in 2019 the board of directors started a serious study of how to give the agency a name that would offer a more accurate understanding of what Anew does.

Gabrenya said in the beginning there was talk of the agency starting a shelter for domestic violence victims, but that never came to fruition. Yet the name South Suburban Family Shelter left the impression that that was the primary focus. It never was.

Anew does have a joint hotline and is able to place domestic violence victims in emergency shelters, and the crisis intervention advocates will meet with the victim.

“They will safety plan with her and help her think of her next steps. And what we will do is help her get to her next best step – wherever that may be,” Gabrenya explained.

But Anew’s focus is primarily on education and doing community outreach.

“We wanted to make sure with our brand that we were communicating more clearly what the focus of our agency really is – that community-based work, being out in the community,” the executive director said.

Anew’s community education program is the prevention piece of its work. The five-member staff routinely goes into schools from preschool through high school. The message is always about controlling feelings and developing healthy attitudes.

“Healthy in multiple ways,” Gabrenya said, “so we’re not only concerned about the ones who potentially may be a victim, but we’re also concerned about the ones who could potentially hurt another person. We don’t want to see people harming another, so what are the skills people need to have, and what support do they need to have, so they don’t hurt the people in their lives.”

Gabrenya said even kindergarteners can learn positive skills. Staff uses the book “Hands Are Not for Hitting” to help them with “feeling identification and what can I do, because when you’re talking about little kids they’re not going to be thinking through their next step. They might be feeling angry or frustrated but then what do they do with that.”

Staff works to help children learn to express emotions “in a healthy way and learning how to put words to that. Because unfortunately as we get older we have a really stunted range on how we identify our feelings … there’s really a lot more to that, so it’s looking at that social/emotional learning aspect as early as possible and how that fits into healthy relationships.”

Anew visits, on average, 20 schools a year that lie within the Cook County Circuit Court’s 6th Municipal District that extends into the southern end of Chicago and goes into the south and southwest suburbs. Depending on the school, Anew staff can meet with students as many as three times to reinforce the message.

With the new name, Gabrenya hopes supporters will recognize the agency moved away from donations of food and clothing to encouraging support through monetary donations.

“We are a nonprofit and pretty heavily government funded, but one of the drawbacks of government funding is it often doesn’t support the administration or the support of our work,” such as accountants, she noted. “Supporting our organization with cash donations helps support the foundation of our work.”

For additional information, visit the Anew website at anewdv.org.

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