We are incredibly lucky to have many loyal volunteers who have long-supported HAWC’s mission. We would like to tell you about Bonnie Stafford, who has served as a Legal Advocate Volunteer at HAWC for approximately 15 years.
Bonnie started out volunteering in the Gloucester District Court, and now primarily assists clients applying for abuse prevention orders at the Salem and Lynn District Courts. She was inspired to get involved with HAWC many years ago because she was concerned by the rising rates of violence against women.
“I often felt powerless to do anything about it. I was looking for a way to help women who were being harmed,” Bonnie said.
Bonnie learned about HAWC’s Legal Volunteer program from Nicki Richon Schoel, a former staff person who is still heavily involved with HAWC through her work on the Gloucester Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Though Bonnie, a retired teacher who also once worked in real estate and as a placement coordinator for a nanny agency, first began volunteering by answering our 24-hour hotline, she quickly discovered her passion for supporting clients in navigating the legal system.
“I found being a Legal Advocate was a natural fit for me. I’m a question-asker, and I am passionate about advocating for people in vulnerable situations,” Bonnie said.
HAWC Legal Volunteers not only need to be able to compassionately listen and help survivors articulate their circumstances in a way that will make them most successful in court; they also must navigate the court system and find answers to questions in what can be an intimidating and stressful environment.
“Helping clients to share their story can be difficult. When they come to court, they are often upset, scared and confused. Their lives might be really complicated as a result of the abuse,” Bonnie said. “You need to be able to ask questions while respecting someone’s privacy and help them feel empowered rather than more vulnerable.”
The process of applying for a protection order became further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local courts, HAWC, and many other social service agencies were forced to close public access and offer services remotely. Bonnie saw the challenge of helping survivors virtually apply for important protections and rose to the occasion.
Bonnie worked closely with HAWC’s Legal Services team to master the new process and needed to quickly learn new technology software to be successful. She expresses sincere gratitude to the HAWC team for always being available and supportive so that she can best serve survivors.
“Working with HAWC enriches my life. I enjoy the feeling I get from having really helped someone,” Bonnie said.
We thank Bonnie and all of our volunteers for their incredible support. HAWC volunteers are instrumental in HAWC’s ability to support survivors of domestic violence.
Are you interested in volunteering at HAWC?
We need volunteers like Bonnie to support clients in the local courts, answer our 24-hour hotline, assist with our Holiday Program, and complete office-based tasks.