By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Aiming to shine a light on domestic violence, East Windsor Township officials are inviting residents to bring luminary kits – candles in a bag – to the Municipal Building for the annual Communities of Light event on Dec. 4.
Communities of Light is set for Dec. 4 at 5 p.m. at the East Windsor Township Municipal Building at 16 Lanning Boulevard. The event is a key fundraiser for Womanspace, which is a nonprofit organization that provides support for women, children and men who are victims of domestic violence.
The luminary kit, which contains six candles, can be purchased at the East Windsor Township Police/Court Building at 80 One Mile Road, at any time. The kit may also be purchased weekdays, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., at the Municipal Building. The cost is $10.
The goal of Communities of Light, which is taking place in towns across Mercer County, is to raise public awareness about domestic violence and the availability of counseling and other resources for victims through Womanspace.
Those resources include emergency housing in a confidential location for victims of domestic violence, as well as Domestic Violence Victims Response Teams, which meet with victims at municipal police departments upon request. The trained volunteers provide immediate support and resources for the victims.
Similar services are provided to victims of sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Support Advocates program, also staffed by trained volunteers. They may accompany the victim to the hospital, for example.
Womanspace, which is based in Lawrence Township, also offers counseling for victims on a family, group or individual basis. The nonprofit group also helps to guide victims through the restraining order process – which keeps abusers away from victims – in Mercer County Family Court.
Mayor Janice Mironov pointed out that East Windsor Township was the first town in Mercer County to establish a Domestic Violence Victim Response Team, with the help of Womanspace and the East Windsor Township Police Department.
“We hope that our participation (in Communities of Light) will help focus public attention on the important subject of domestic violence, and that it will encourage residents to become more aware of support efforts available to victims and their families,” Mayor Mironov said.
“As a community, we wish to express our strong support for organizations like Womanspace and our local Domestic Violence Victim Response Team, and to recognize the important assistance they provide to victims of domestic violence,” Mayor Mironov said.
Lighting the candles in the luminary kits is a “unique means of increasing local awareness of the ongoing presence of domestic violence in all of our communities. (The luminaries) serve as a symbol of hope for all those who struggle with violence in their homes,” Mayor Mironov said.
Womanspace has its roots in the Mercer County Commission on the Status of Women, which was created in 1976. During the initial public meetings, the issue of domestic violence quickly came to the forefront, according to www.Womanspace.org.
As a result of those meetings, a proposal was developed to provide services to women in crisis. The effort was spearheaded by the late Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who was serving on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She later became the mayor of the former Princeton Borough.
Sigmund – who is considered to be the founder of Womanspace – signed the original certificate of incorporation for the nonprofit group in 1977, along with co-signers Debora Metzger, Mary Ann Cannon, Ellen Belknap and Valorie Caffee.
Through its many programs over the past 40 years, Womanspace has helped more than 67,000 women, 13,000 children and 4,600 men who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer