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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015

New CAASA director 'still an advocate'

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Julie Schulenberg, the new director of Centers Against Abuse and Sexual Assault, is looking forward to working with county coordinators like Jacquie Kehoe, who covers Clay and Palo Alto counties, as well as supervising the Spencer-based shelter. The two are shown in front of a whiteboard featuring inspiring quotes in their Spencer office.
(Photo by Gabe Licht)
When Rhonda Dean stepped down from her longtime position as director of Centers Against Abuse and Sexual Assault, Interim Director Julie Schulenberg decided not to succeed her in the position.

But, when the position became open recently, the former Cherokee and Ida County Coordinator felt the time was right, as does Clay County Coordinator Jacquie Kehoe.

"It's just a smart transition to have someone that knows what we do and has been in the system," Kehoe said.

"I'm learning a lot," Schulenberg added. "I'm going from advocate to administrator, but I'm still an advocate. The administrator needs to be an advocate. That's why we're here: To help victims and understand their needs and try to offer more options for them."

Schulenberg, of Aurelia, got her start as an advocate with the Council Against Domestic Abuse in Cherokee. When CADA merged with CAASA in 2005, Schulenberg stayed on board.

Now at the helm of the non-profit organization, Schulenberg has specific short- and long-term goals she would like to help accomplish.

"My personal goal is to take this next year to really understand the funding and how to best write (grant applications) and seek out as much grant funding as possible because we do know funding cuts are coming," she said.

A 14.8 percent funding cut is expected in 2014, and Schulenberg wants to ensure those funds are replaced so that current staffing levels can be sustained.

"My goal is that CAASA doesn't lose staff because our numbers of victims that we're serving go up each year and we know there are more out there," Schulenberg said.

She also wants to spread the word so everyone who needs CAASA's services knows about them. Trying to prevent abuse and assault in the first place would be preferable.

"I want to get into colleges and have prevention work in high schools and junior highs on dating violence and the signs to look for," Schulenberg said, noting an increase in reported sexual assaults on college campuses.

The fact that reporting has improved shows that advocates are "doing our job because people need to know it's safe to report it," Schulenberg added, referring to oft-unreported cases of sexual assault.

A large part of Schulenberg's job will be working with each of CAASA's four offices, as well as other entities throughout the eight-county region.

"I think as director covering those eight counties, I need to go to the outreach offices to meet staff and people in those communities," Schulenberg said. "I have to do a lot of paperwork, but I also want to meet people in those counties, such as law enforcement, county attorneys and victim-witness coordinators. That's part of my job and I'll be doing that soon."

Partnering with local organizations like Compass Pointe and Seasons Center will make it easier for advocates to "help the whole person," Kehoe said.

"When we all work together with what we know, that best serves individuals," Schulenberg added.

Working with the public will also keep CAASA viable.

"It's so important that victim services are here," Schulenberg said. "That's where we really start saying to the community, 'Any donations are appreciated,'" Schulenberg said. "The shelter is used all the time. There is almost always someone in the shelter. We need food, paper products and any kind of monetary gifts. We do use that to serve victims."

Individuals may also help CAASA's cause by making tax-deductible donations to the Second Chances store at 517 Sixth Ave. E in Spencer. The store has been in existence since 2006, following the model of the New Leaf store Schulenberg had started in Cherokee.

Schulenberg promises to be a good steward of any contributions, including volunteer hours.

"We just try to be efficient and effective with what we have," she said.

With that thought in mind, the mission and vision of CAASA will continue.

"Ultimately, we'd like to stop domestic violence and sexual assault," Schulenberg concluded. "That's going to be through prevention but, there again, we also know this work is a movement. There were people before us and there will be people after us doing this work."

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