Welcome back to our regular series: the Supporter Spotlight!
Every member of our community has a story… a reason why the work of SafeHouse Denver and our mission of supporting survivors means so much to them.
This month, as we plan for the Hope Gala in October, event co-chairs Geralyn Gorshing and Jen Witcher explain how this annual program shapes our ability to provide hope and healing through survivor services.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
Geralyn and Jen both lived in several other cities before eventually relocating to Denver around the same time in 2015. Geralyn, the director of marketing and business development for an HR consulting firm, enjoys spending time with her family, working on home projects and attending sports events. Jen, the co-owner of a CBD company, is an avid dog lover with four German Shepherds that she trains for competitions. Both women have philanthropy in their blood: Geralyn was previously involved with a California nonprofit that provides services similar to SafeHouse, and Jen is currently active in an animal charity that helps pet owners afford life-saving care for their furry friends.
How did you first get involved with SafeHouse Denver?
Upon moving to Denver, Geralyn met a SafeHouse board member who introduced her to the organization, and she knew it was the right fit for her to continue her past nonprofit participation. In addition to co-chairing the Gala, Geralyn has also been a board member herself for the last five years, and she is currently serving as the Board Chair. Meanwhile, Jen became familiar with SafeHouse and started volunteering when her husband’s company was searching for places to support through workplace giving. (Small world: he was already acquainted with Victoria McVicker, our CEO, from when they both lived in Kansas City!)
What does the mission of SafeHouse mean to you personally?
More than just supporting survivors and saving lives by breaking the cycle of domestic violence through education, services and access to resources, Geralyn praised the people who carry out this mission on a daily basis. “It also means supporting a caring and committed staff who are truly passionate about the work they do, and I have never seen a more dedicated staff than the staff at SafeHouse Denver,” Geralyn said. Jen felt the same way, citing her inspiration as the passionate leadership at all levels of the organization that is infused with the importance of giving to others. “It’s quite an honor to be involved,” Jen said. “It’s such a great organization that helps so many people of all ages.”
What do you wish more people knew about domestic violence?
Jen emphasized the need for awareness about who domestic violence affects – in short, everyone. “People need to open their eyes to the fact that it affects people that could be their next door neighbor, their doctor, their lawyer, their best friend,” Jen said. “If you’re in a situation with domestic violence, it touches everyone around you.” She also described the experience of a close male friend who was abused by his boyfriend, calling it a privilege to be an ally during his time of need and drawing attention to more visibility for male survivors. Being vocal about support can open doors and provide survivors with an outlet when they need to talk or seek resources. At the same time, Geralyn has seen the flip side of this situation. “It was also eye-opening to me how many people hide it and are embarrassed by it,” she said. “It’s just so important that SafeHouse creates awareness in the community that these services are available to help.”
What does the Hope Gala represent for the goals of our organization?
As our signature annual event, the Hope Gala is more than just a night on the town. It’s a symbol of support that reaches hundreds of people both inside and outside that hotel ballroom. “The Gala is a perfect opportunity for the community to learn more about the amazing work being done, and why it’s important and needed,” Geralyn said. “It’s hard to believe what [survivors] have been through, but it’s comforting to know that SafeHouse is there to provide the care and support for those experiencing domestic violence.” Jen agreed, stating that this year marks a welcome return to the traditional in-person format. “There really is nothing like the social interaction of being with people,” she said. “You’re coming together for [an issue] that’s really very horrible, but it’s an uplifting event to see how much support everyone gives.”
When asked about the highlight of the evening, both women immediately had the same response: the survivor story. Over the years, a variety of speakers – either survivors themselves or families who have lost loved ones to domestic violence – have shared their experiences and moved roomfuls of people to donate. “It’s always the survivor story,” Geralyn said. “You look around the room… and you see tears of joy, tears of excitement that people have overcome domestic violence, or the tears of sorrow when you hear what people and families have been through. It’s just so touching.”
What advice do you have for people who want to get involved with our mission?
“Just pick up the phone or send an email. We’re always looking for volunteers,” Jen said, explaining that the ability to choose an area where you want to help makes the process more meaningful. Echoing how she was first introduced to the organization, Geralyn said that talking to Board members is also a great resource for people to learn more about the impact they can have by supporting SafeHouse Denver in different ways. Overall, both women are proud of the programs and services that events like the Hope Gala are able to fund for the benefit of survivors. “It’s a journey, a path that starts with a huge struggle. Hopefully, we can create an environment for [survivors] to be successful in the future and gain back their confidence and their life,” Jen said.
The Hope Gala will be held at The Ritz-Carlton Denver on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. Register today to reserve your seats – capacity has been limited to uphold guest safety, so this event will sell out. If you are unable to attend the Gala, you are also welcome to make a donation in any amount to contribute to our programs and services that support survivors. Thank you for making a difference!