HONESDALE—Friends, family and coworkers gathered together last Tuesday night to honor Michele Minor Wolf for her 20 years of dedicated service as Victims Intervention Program (VIP) Executive Director.
Consisting of VIP staff, board members, volunteers and family members, the celebratory group congregated on July 25 at Laurel's Hometown Cafe on Main Street to surprise the executive director with a dinner, states a release from VIP Administrative Assistant Susan Dvorin.
Representing the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Adam Kulikowski presented the esteemed executive with a commemorative plaque.
Aiding the surprise, though taxing the keepers of the secret, the dinner was set about two weeks after Wolf's July 7 anniversary.
“Michele had assumed everyone had forgotten or missed her milestone anniversary, so keeping the surprise was no easy task,” states the release.
Since stepping into her position in the summer of 1997, Wolf has worked nonstop alongside her staff to provide care, shelter and support to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking and similar crimes.
Wolf stated before accepting this position, she'd been working within the advocacy field for about seven years.
Part of what has kept her going so long is seeing the benefit it provides to the people VIP helps, she said.
“The most gratifying thing is to see people pick up the pieces and move on after a trauma,” she explained.
Her ultimate goal and the main focus of VIP's work is to always make a difference in the lives of their clients.
Wolf admitted that, when encumbered by the thought of how much work is left to do to advocate for victims' rights and safety, she finds comfort looking back on all that has been accomplished up to this point.
On average over the last few years, Wolf said VIP assists roughly 1000 individuals in Wayne County and the surrounding areas.
This is roughly twice the amount of people VIP helped ten years ago, she said.
That does not mean the rate of abuse-related crimes has doubled, she said. It merely demonstrates that more people know where to go to get help and feel more comfortable doing so.
While under Wolf's leadership, VIP has expanded as needed to accommodate new programs developed to suit the community's needs.
According to Wolf, VIP provides civil legal representation and continued support to aid survivors through the process of bringing their abusers to justice.
It also offers after-crisis care to help clients get their lives back on track.
This includes programs like the shelter program – which provides a safe haven for clients to recuperate – and the economic justice program – which helps clients get back into the workforce by aiding career development and teaching key skills like budgeting and credit management.
“[These programs have] really made a difference for the people that we serve,” she said.
Wolf stated much of this expansion was possible due to highly-competitive federal grant money, receipt of which she is happy VIP was able to achieve.
In addition to programming, VIP has expanded to include annual support events including Take Back the Night and awareness nights for domestic violence and human trafficking.
Even after 20 years, Wolf said she has no plans of stopping anytime soon. “I don't feel that my time is done yet,” she said. “I really love what I do and I'm completely passionate [about it].”
Moving forward, Wolf looks to continue developing a regional task force of victims and survivors to help direct others like them to where they can go for help.
Abuse prevention and human trafficking awareness remain prime goals for Wolf and VIP.
As new community needs become apparent, new programs will continue to develop, she said.
Wolf's passion for helping others has spread not only to VIP's clients, but to the organization itself.
For her efforts, Wolf's staff nominated her for the Jaycees “Boss of the Year” award with which she was presented earlier this year.
Dvorin commented in a release, “Michele has created a workplace at VIP that is friendly and welcoming. She has cultivated a supportive atmosphere where employees help each other when help is needed.
“Her employees are a priority to her, as well as the victims we serve. We hope she is here for another 20 years!”
VIP's annual fall flower sale is underway for the month of August.
Nine inch pots of colorful seasonal flowers are available for $8. Proceeds benefit VIP.
Those interested can download an order form online. Deadline is August 29, with delivery scheduled for September 7.
On October 27, VIP will host its annual Jeans and Jewels dinner and dance at Silver Birches Resort.
Attendees are welcome to dress as formal or casual as desired.
Tickets are expected to cost $50 per person. Proceeds benefit VIP.
More information will become available closer to the event date. To stay updated, those interested are advised to call VIP at (570) 253-4401 or monitor their website: www.vipempowers.org.
The phone number listed above is also a 24-hour crisis hotline to help those in need suffering from domestic abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking or other related crimes.