Charity spread HOPE for victims


Olivia Swenson-Hultz

Dee Maddr, dances with Kandence Newsome, the daughter of Ky Newsome, a member of hope during Bowls of Hope, a fundraiser for The Hope foundation which featured live music, a dessert auction, and soup.

Mallory Kutnick, Campus Reporter

Reagan Williams never reached the age of three.

Despite her family’s best efforts to get help for the Tilton toddler, Williams died of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her mother’s then-boyfriend in 2006.

Williams’ aunt Cortney Auter, a 2008 and 2013 alumna, said the death was devastating. She has since dedicated herself to family and consumer sciences, which she majored in both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student.

Auter now works as a social worker in Urbana and drove down Tuesday to participate in a fundraiser for domestic abuse victims, held at the Wesley United Methodist Church on Fourth Street.

Housing, Outreach, Prevention and Education of East-Central Illinois, a domestic violence program with an office in Charleston, sold handmade bowls and soup to benefit their services, which include housing programs, individual and group counseling, legal advocacy and a 24-hour hotline.

Althea Penderjast, the program’s executive director, and Jessica Duzan Johnson, the president of its board, both stressed the definition of domestic violence.

They said it can involve control over power in a household, manipulation over one’s roommates or family members, or emotional or verbal abuse.

Domestic violence can also mean taking full control of all financing, including the victim’s personal accounts.
HOPE provided various pamphlets with critical information at the fundraiser, including a guide to safety planning, lists of their programs and services, “What to Expect When You are in Counseling” and other resources.

“I’m a part of making the world a safer place,” said Penderjast, who started out with HOPE as a volunteer at the program’s conception over 30 years ago. “It means standing up (against) injustices every day.”

Johnson began at HOPE after her work in a probation office introduced her to cases of law-breaking children influenced by abusive home lives.

“I really started wanting to work with kids,” Johnson said. “I wanted to be more proactive.”

Larry Niegowski and Betty Young of Charleston said they have made it a habit in recent years to attend HOPE events and fundraisers. The married couple participated in the evening’s dessert auction and won lemon-glazed muffins for $17 and a carrot cake for $110.

“(HOPE) is a group that fulfills a very specific need in the community,” Niegowski said. “I empathize. I’m a human being.”

All of HOPE’s services are free and confidential. They provide housing to victims until they can get back on their feet, and they use connections with other organizations and community services to refer victims to others they feel might be better suited for family counseling, financial and legal consultations and medical services.

The 24-hour HOPE Crisis Hotline can be reached at 888-345-3990.

The Housing Program can be reached at 217-348-8815.

More information can be found at the HOPE website at

Mallory Kutnick can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]