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State funding increases Anew allocation for domestic violence work

A boost in state funding is nearly doubling the allocation for work by Anew: Building Beyond Violence & Abuse. The agency will receive close to $1.1 million.  

Jennifer Gabrenya, executive director of Anew, said the decision by the Illinois Department of Human Services to increase the funding for domestic violence work comes after an intensive lobbying campaign and great advocacy work by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence during the last legislative session.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and it is thrilling to be a part of it,” said Gabrenya who serves on the coalition’s board representing council members from Cook County.

Anew received $912,000, just short of the $1 million maximum increase DHS was providing for victim services. Anew also was awarded a $150,000 grant for its partner abuse efforts. The total $1,062,000 was nearly double the agency’s $589,728 funding for the previous year.  

Gabrenya said Anew reached a total of 12,806 people in the 2022 fiscal year: 3,900 were direct services to individuals, 2,200 represented prevention programs in school and the remaining services were for community education and outreach. 

For Anew, the additional dollars offer an opportunity to grow its services to battle domestic violence and assist those who have been its victims. It also will be used to develop a marketing campaign.

“We didn’t spend our money on materials to get the word out before,” she said. “We really had a focus on salaries and essentials, so this really helps us to be able to figure out the best ways to reach the community.

“With this increase in funding, Anew is embarking on a program structure to restore services that were diminished during the pandemic and set our agency up for a future of growth and prosperity.” 

The funding will allow Anew to expand staffing in its community education, court advocacy and partner abuse intervention programs; redesign the hotline and emergency shelter programs to better service people during a domestic violence crisis; and improve leadership for each program.

“We will also be able to provide professional development opportunities to build upon the skills of our team and integrate more best practices into our work with the community,” Gabrenya said. 

Anew’s court advocacy program will be getting a boost. Gabrenya expects to add staff to the ranks of the four women who work at the 6th District Markham Courthouse of the Cook County Circuit Court system. Last year, Anew assisted 2,400 people. Typically, Anew would be assisting a client trying to get an order of protection from the court, but Anew staff has found that their job goes much beyond that.

Gabrenya said, “The number of those who get orders is a little lower, but we have people come in and they’re not sure who to go to for help, or they think they want an order but it isn’t something they’re ready to pursue. That’s why the number is so large, people come because they’re not sure how to navigate the court system” and they need someone who can offer direction on next steps.

Although this additional state money will allow Anew to increase services, it doesn’t end the need for fundraising efforts. Gabrenya said state funding can only be spent on very specific things. To keep the 42-year-old organization on a sound footing, Anew will continue to reach out to the community for support.

“We have to have that strong foundation to support the programs and keep developing and growing them,” she explained. The organization is making its annual appeal now, in particular to help with the Markham Courthouse program. It’s also gearing up for the holiday Adopt-A-Family program and the annual coat drive.

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