A committed core of volunteers is at the heart of My Sisters’ Place in White Plains, a safe haven where women and families who are victims of domestic violence can find justice and peace. Volunteer Coordinator Silvia Lederman says the group started as a volunteer grassroots operation in Yonkers, where women and men would take battered women into their homes to keep them safe from abusive spouses. “Our founding members were volunteers,” says Lederman. “And this movement grew into the establishment of a shelter and offices in White Plains and Yonkers, as they began providing counseling and legal services in addition to a safe environment.”
A popular program at My Sisters’ Place is the Sister-in-Law (SIL) Program. Volunteers known as Sisters-in-Law, or SILs, accompany domestic-violence victims to court dates, medical appointments, and meetings with social-service agencies to offer emotional support. Other opportunities include becoming a shelter volunteer, overseeing administrative work and translation services, and working at various events.
The 75 volunteers who work for the organization each year are mostly women, according to Lederman, and range in age from recent college graduates to retirees. Volunteers who work directly with clients must complete 30 hours of training; other volunteers must complete one hour of training. Volunteers must sign a confidentiality agreement to respect and protect the privacy of the women and families they will serve.
Judy Dobles became an active volunteer five and a half years ago after becoming friendly with someone on the organization’s board of directors. “As a Sister-in-Law, we often accompany clients to court,” says Dobles, a 59-year-old Chappaqua resident. “Clients often come across their abusers in the waiting room of the courtroom, so we’re there to try and shield them from their view and protect them.”
Dobles says her volunteer work, which averages three to five hours per month, helps her keep her own life annoyances in perspective. “It’s gratifying to know you’re helping someone,” she says.
Get Started: Visit www.mspny.org/get-involved/volunteer for more information. There are no prerequisites or minimum time commitments, and some training may be required.
Similar Ops: Advocacy and assistance for domestic-violence victims can be found at Hope’s Door in Pleasantville and the Westchester County Office for Women in White Plains.