It is hard to comprehend all the challenges that we as a world and as an organization have faced in 2020. Our staff has been on the front lines of this pandemic, providing real solutions to survivors facing increased isolation and escalated violence and I am so deeply proud of all that we have been able to accomplish in this wild year.
We had to dig deep as a team and lean in to the hurdles and enormous effort it would take to implement completely new ways of doing things. Not only did we survive, we thrived. I am pleased to share that, so far in 2020, our team has helped 9,943 survivors find safety and justice in the 4,678 cases we have closed. Here are some other noteworthy accomplishments from our 38th year:
- We updated our mission statement to include the valuable work we do empowering the public with violence prevention education.
- We created our 1st ever Annual Report which will serve as the primary communication piece to highlight our annual accomplishments.
- We produced not one, but two brand new PSA’s to highlight both our Agency Services and Youth Services.
- Going 100% virtual entailed a rapid transition to a new phone system that directs all Legal Line calls to our team working remotely. Using the new soft phone technology, we are now able to communicate with clients using voice, but also through text and video calls. This has enabled us to expand our Virtual Legal Clinics (VLC) to all of our legal line callers and clients seeking face-to-face video conferencing with an attorney, for free.
- Due to the demand for our virtual legal services, we also added new technology including a web chat feature to our website, to better communicate with survivors seeking help.
- We formed a partnership with the Houston Area Women’s Center, the largest domestic violence shelter in Houston, to have a virtual satellite office at their shelter and host legal clinics for all of their clients.
- The training department worked around the clock to transition all presentations to virtual platforms as well as creating new trainings to address unique legal challenges amid the pandemic and one geared for essential workers entitled Going Beyond the Job Description: How to Recognize & Respond to Domestic Violence in the Workplace. In all, 4,075 people have attended our virtual trainings this year!
- In May, Chief Legal Officer Bronwyn Blake and Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach Amanda Elkanick Oder presented a webinar on Coercion and Consent at the Crimes Against Women Conference, the premier national gathering for advocates in our field.
- We had another record-breaking Teen Ambassadors of Hope program with 81 teenagers participating and raising over $32,500! The Teen Hope Awards switched to a virtual platform with many special guest appearances including Texas First Lady Cecelia Abbott.
- We transitioned out largest fundraiser, the Black & White Ball to a virtual platform, raising over $270,000 and honoring Dallas Mavericks CEO, Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall, with our Vision Award.
- Our staff attended the first virtual Public Service Career Fair at UT for law students from all over the state to meet the next generation of public interest lawyers.
- We continued to build on our medical-legal partnerships and Board Member Dr. Kelly Thorstad submitted a blog to the Texas Medical Association titled "What PPE is Needed for Domestic Violence?"
- We provided a training on healthy relationships to the staff at Girl Scouts of Central Texas. Stay tuned to this partnership- we hope to have an exciting announcement next year about a cool collaboration!
- The Texas State Bar Poverty Law Section honored our very own, Denise Margo Moy, Chief Operating Officer, with the Noble Award for Lifetime Achievement for devoting her entire legal career to making justice accessible to survivors!
- We have come to the end of our lease in our current office space and have decided to continue to provide staff the option to work from home. With that in mind we have a new location, smaller yes, but perfectly suited for the “new normal.”
- Finally, as a team, we acknowledge the racial injustices in our nation and we engaged in discussions and training for growth and healing. We made a commitment to doing more outreach to survivors who are people of color. Our leadership team attended and implemented the National Coalition Building Institute diversity training. Our Board of Directors adopted a new Statement on Diversity and Inclusion. Our team developed a training on Disproportionality & Intersectionality which was given to all staff. And we reached out to organizations representing people of color to seek ways in which we could collaborate and support the work they are doing.
I want to express my immense appreciation to you, our supporters. You have been steadfast with your support since the beginning of this crisis. I am grateful beyond measure for your willingness to stand by us and ensure our sustainability.
What we are facing today, seems never ending. Fortunately, I am so proud and inspired everyday by the incredible work of my team. We will continue to stand up against violence and systemic abuse. We will continue to serve clients and educate the public. And we will continue to be the example the world needs.
I’m off to pack some boxes for our new location, because why wouldn’t we move during a pandemic?
From my heart, I thank you for being on this wild ride with us!
Heather Bellino, Chief Executive Officer
Only two weeks left to donate in 2020! End your year on a high note and give the priceless gift of safety to survivors in Texas.
Make a tax-deductible donation and you'll have the option to dedicate and send the card pictured below to a loved one. TAP will customize the card with the name of your gift recipient and a personal message of your choice.
Whether you are dedicating your donation or simply donating in the spirit of giving- you will be helping us wrap Texan survivors with free life saving services, ultimately helping them to the safety they deserve!
NEW 2020 Tax Breaks: For 2020 only, deductions on cash gifts can be taken on 100% of adjusted gross income. That means supporters who use the standard deduction rather than itemizing can now deduct an additional $300 of cash contributions to public charities like Texas Advocacy Project. Boost your 2020 tax deduction (tax year ends December 31 at 11:59 p.m)!
Santa and his elves delivered once again this year! All ten of our adopted survivor-families will receive Hope for the Holidays through our annual gift drive. We could not be more thankful to our generous supporters who adopted a family, wrapped gifts, or simply made monetary donations to ensure each family's holiday was extra special.
The success of this campaign, year after year, is due to the selfless giving of many people. First, we would like to thank everyone who donated a gift from a family's wishlist. Can you imagine the look of all the children’s faces when they see these gifts overflowing in their home? Also, to our volunteers who assisted with the wrapping of over 500 presents, we appreciate your time and passion for this campaign! Last, but certainly not least, we would like to send special appreciation to the following sponsors who made significant donations to support this year’s campaign:
Thank you all for helping to spread holiday cheer this holiday season!
Texas Advocacy Project's Intake Specialists are the first staff members that survivors talk to when they call into our legal line. Our Specialists take down important information from the survivor so that when they meet with one of our attorneys, we are prepared to help them in the most efficient way possible. Recently, due to the demand for our virtual legal services, we added a new chat feature to our website to better communicate with survivors seeking help. Ms. Munoz is one of our Intake Specialists who is behind this chat when a survivor comes forward and is ready to take the next steps to safety.
What is it like being an Intake Specialist and being the first person that connects with our survivor-clients?
You have to be strong minded; survivors need someone to listen to them and bring them some kind of peace and hope that there is someone willing to provide the services they are looking for. The tone of our voice makes a huge impact when talking to them and it's such a rewarding feeling when survivors thank you and wish you well. The best part of the day is when clients are so thrilled they were able to get connected to an attorney so fast.
How has the new chat feature changed the way you work? Does it change how you connect with survivors?
Yes, it gives the survivors a way to reach us in the exact moment that they have questions or problems that they can't solve. Sometimes sending a message is more tangible for a survivor since we are all so used to texting nowadays. It also gives them a way to reach us if making a phone call isn’t possible. If the abuser is in the same room or even household as the survivor, they might not be able to make a call- the chat gives them a way to reach us safely.
What’s your favorite thing about working at TAP?
All the special events that they provide for survivors. Backpacks for Hope, Handbags for Hope, and Hope for the Holidays. These simple events, I know, allow survivors to smile again and feel the joy of receiving gifts. Just the thought of knowing that there are people out there who care for them and are willing to help them get back on their feet is something that makes me feel happy to be a part of.
What’s something you have learned about TAP that has impacted you?
The work and dedication the attorneys have when they provide Direct Representation still amazes me. I've seen how our attorneys go above and beyond to try to help clients, how committed they are on their research, and how attorneys talk among each other to try to come up with ways to help our clients. This is my first time working at a non-profit organization and I can say I enjoy being part of this team.
What initially brought you to Texas Advocacy Project?
My best friend at the time was working for TAP as a paralegal and they were hiring for a Bilingual Intake Specialist. After working in the Customer Service field for several years, I went ahead and applied!
What do you most like to do to unwind?
I love to spend time with my family and friends, especially going to visit my parents and surprise them with gifts. Watching movies or catching up on my shows is how I like to end my days.
What is your favorite dish or restaurant?
I love food and I am not picky! My favorite dish is the Zuppa Toscana Soup from Olive Garden!
The Big Game Football Squares for Survivors | February 7th, 2021
Teen Ambassadors of Hope | Nominations Open February 2nd, 2021
Handbags for Hope | Launches March 3rd, 2021
Backpacks for Hope | Launches June 9th, 2021