Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Center founder hands out hope, options.

Byline: PROFILE By Polly Summar * Photo by Roberto Rosales

When Nicole Brown Simpson was killed six years ago, it caused women all over the country to examine their relationships. But what Sherolyn Smith-De Santis did was start planning a center where victims of domestic violence could build the skills to change their lives.

"I wrote and wrote four pages of notes all about what I wanted the center to be and what I wanted it to look like," she says.

Her idea became the Albuquerque Women's Resource Center, which opened last August. It's not a shelter, but a safe haven where women can go during the day and early evening for the self-esteem building and career development education that can reveal new options.

Smith-De Santis knew through her work with various nonprofit organizations that there was a gap in services for domestic violence victims.

"There are really not enough services for victims of domestic violence who don't need a shelter," says Smith-De Santis. "The more I read and researched, the more I realized that shelters are short-term solutions for long-term problems."

In the first six months of this year, the center has seen 125 women and children and given more than 900 hours of services including support groups, career development and play groups for children with structured activities for self-esteem and dealing with anger.

As executive director, Smith-De Santis is in charge of fund raising, public relations and administration. She seems to know almost instinctively how to draw attention to the center, whether it's handing out gift bags with heart-shaped balloons and candy to legislators at the state Capitol or planning next month's Montezuma Ball at the Sheraton Old Town Hotel, a fund-raiser for both the center and the Albuquerque Museum. …

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