Peace River Center Victim Services Lead Advocate Andrea Fennell Receives 2021 Woman of the Year Highlander Award
Peace River Center Victim Service’s Andrea Fennell recently received the 2021 Woman of the Year Highlander Award, which is sponsored by the Alan Jay Automotive Network. Andrea serves as Domestic Violence Lead Advocate in Highlands County and was nominated by community partners she works with frequently. She is responsible for working one-on-one, at least three times a week and sometimes daily, with survivors to help them understand healthy relationship dynamics and household management, including finances. She also connects domestic violence survivors and their children to resources such as clothing, housing, furniture and other essentials. Andrea handles everything from month end reporting to counseling survivors to sweeping floors; no task is too big or small for her. In true Woman of the Year style, she goes above and beyond just meeting clients’ basic needs.
“She helps women who transition out into their own safe dwellings to get beds and other needed furniture and supplies. Andrea always gives it her all,” said Ruth Keller, who nominated Andrea for the award.
“If it’s their birthday, we make sure they get a gift and have a cake. We make sure their children have gifts during the holidays,” said Andrea. Oftentimes in domestic violence situations abusers isolate their victims so they feel very alone; Andrea and other PRC advocates work to restore survivors’ self-esteem and support network. One survivor recently commented she was learning so much from the advocates and had never had such a strong emotional support system before. Andrea said it’s a very rewarding job, and she was surprised when a co-worker brought her attention the nomination.
“I was not expecting to be nominated. I have just always been a person who helps,” she said. The nomination should not have surprised Fennell though as her dedication has previously captured the community’s attention. In 2018 she was in the top five finalists of 25 nominees for the Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champion for Children Awards, which recognizes the community’s outstanding child advocates.
“I always go above and beyond because that’s what these survivors and children deserve. They deserve to have someone in their corner, advocating for them, connecting them to resources, rooting for them,” said Andrea.
“It never ceases to amaze me how she can find an item and fill a need,” said Cindy Marshall, Aktion Club advisor, who has worked on projects with Andrea. “Her heart is as solid as gold!”
Though she is happy to work behind the scenes, she was grateful for this opportunity to shine a light on the need for support.
“There are challenges we could use the community’s help with, like public transportation and affordable housing for survivors,” she said. She encouraged the community to get involved by donating or hosting a collection drive.
“We have such incredible community support already and it means so much to the clients and staff, but the need is great,” said Andrea. PRC Victim Services accepts gas and hotel gift cards, household essentials like sheets and towels, diapers, wipes, and other tangible items to help survivors and their children as they begin their new, violence-free lives. For more information individuals can visit www.PeaceRiverCenter.org/services/victimservices.