SAVE THE DATES!
August 26 & 27
SCEDSV Quarterly Meeting
AmericInn Hotel, Ft. Pierre
Begins at 1:00 on the 26th
September 24 & 25
Trauma-Informed Response to Victims of Violence Workshop
Adoba Hotel, Rapid City
Facilitated by Cathy Cave, National Center of Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
More information coming soon!
A TRIBUTE TO SHIRLEY ERHART
When word spread that Shirley Erhart had passed away on April 26, the loss was felt deeply. Shirley emulated all the special qualities of a true grass roots advocate – a sister to other advocates and the women she worked with. Clearly her commitment to making women and their children safe was more than just a job, it was her life way. Though she retired a number of years ago, Shirley continued to work as an advocate, a board member for Crisis Intervention Services (CISS) in Sturgis, Pretty Bird Woman House in McLaughlin and SDCEDSV – all without pay! She will always be remembered for her warmth and laughter.
As Tammie Brock, Director of CISS said “ Shirley made people see the good side of everything even when things were not that pleasant and when I got off track, she was the strength and inspiration that helped me regroup! Her entire life was about helping and giving to her family and friends - not her. I will forever remember her as one of the kindest, most devoted, and selfless people I knew.”
In 2002, CISS nominated Shirley for the prestigious Sunshine Peace Award. The Sunshine Lady Foundation, Inc. presented the Awards in Wilmington, NC in August 2002 to 24 recipients from across the country in recognition of their extraordinary efforts in the domestic violence field. Shirley Erhart was one of the recipients - selected from over 150 nominations.
Excerpts from former Director of CISS Teresa Forbes’ nomination letter summarizes the amazing path Shirley’s life as an advocate took: “In 1998, CISS received funds to start an outreach office in the rural community of Faith, 110 miles from our shelter and the county seat. Shirley was the advocate hired to create a program from the “grass roots” up. It was not a commitment she took lightly. Her commute would be 68 miles one-way and she had a family to care for. Her schedule was flexible, but demanding – early mornings, late nights and a lot of road to cover in between. She was an outsider to the community and starting up domestic violence services would be a challenge. However, we knew she would make relationships and become accepted as someone battered women could trust with their stories. She is [the] definition of a “rural advocate.” In 2000 she was chosen to participant in a STOP Grant Technical Assistance Rural Project Site Visit in rural West Virginia. There she shared her expertise with advocates who face similar challenges in rural areas.
Shirley is a remarkable mentor. She began mentoring a young woman in Faith to assist with the crisis line and advocacy and, in 2006, Cindy Clark, was hired as a full-time outreach advocate for the Faith Office. Shirley began working in the newly created Buffalo program whereby she only had to drive 110 miles one way to work! She has worked in Harding and Butte Counties, developing cooperative, trusting relationships with first responders, school districts, and entire communities.
For twelve years, in addition to everything else, she volunteers on our crisis line. Somehow, she keeps herself emotionally ready to give to others. Over the years, our staff and volunteers have become a “shelter family” and Shirley is the matriarch. We have learned about her character from stories of her life growing up with her grandmother, the birth of her kids, and the challenges of living with a son and husband who have schizophrenia. Like that motherly figure in a family, she is the one we look to when we are hurting and need support.
Shirley’s work goes beyond our program and she is always striving to impact policies and decisions statewide. She is an ever-present figure at public events and people respect her input when formulating positions. Shirley makes statewide travel a priority when there are meetings, marches, rallies, or training opportunities to attend. She has seen every corner of the state and traveled over many country roads – snow packed or clear.
While Shirley will always be a central part of our program, her work to end violence against women did not start here. Shirley began her journey in the battered women’s movement in 1985 when she was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. Due to her illness, she was unable to continue her employment. She began to volunteer for a developing program in Lemmon as a crisis line advocate and in 1989 became the Founding Mother of CAVA, a shelter for battered women and their children, an unparalleled program in the small community of Lemmon. Shirley often drove women 220 miles one way to obtain protection orders, attend court proceedings, etc. Shirley’s reputation spread across the border into North Dakota and in 1996, she was asked by the Adams County States Attorney to lay the groundwork for a Victims Witness program. Shirley wrote the grants, organized the office, and mentored an advocate run the program
In 1995 Shirley initiated the “Silent Witness” program for the South Dakota Coalition, constructing all the silhouettes with the help of her husband. Shirley is the founding mother of the Rural Women Task Force and has held every office on the Executive Board (at least once!) within the Coalition. Her leadership skills are always needed to keep membership from straying away from ‘grassroots’ advocacy. She was also one of the founding mothers of White Women Working Against Racism, a standing committee within the SD Coalition.”
In 2010, Shirley was given the Carol Maicki Advocate Award. This award recognizes advocates who exemplify the qualities Carol, a long time activist and advocate brought to the work. Qualifications for this award include: pro-active commitment to end violence against women in work and life way; demonstrated understanding of the connection between violence against women in the forms of battering and rape, and other forms of oppression, i.e., racism, classism, heterosexism etc. , and actively works to keep individual advocacy, social change work and relationships woman-centered.
“When I consider the women who started the Battered Women’s Movement in the 70’s, who used their own homes as Safe Homes, used their own moneys so women’s needs would be met, who worked tirelessly at Social Change, I am ever so humbled to be receiving this Peace Award. Every Advocate who walked before me and those who walk beside me now will be with me as I accept the Sunshine Peace Award.” - Shirley Erhart, Women's Advocate
[Advocates must]make a difference in the lives of rural women who are attempting to break free of domestic violence/sexual assault and attempting to start new lives for themselves and their children. Because they live in remote rural areas does not mean they don't deserve access to services/opportunities." - Shirley Erhart
Shirley, along with Willi Dolphus, began work in 2004 to make Pretty Bird Woman House a reality. Willi said, “Pretty Bird Woman House was always in her thoughts and in her heart. She had input into the operations and development almost on a daily basis. It would be at the ending of the day that she and I would email or text each other on Pretty Bird Woman House affairs. I could expect to hear from her between the hours of 11pm to 1am. This went on for many years. She was dedicated to providing a safe place for women on the Standing Rock Reservation. She would travel the 68 miles from Lemmon to McLaughlin to help at the shelter office on a volunteer basis without a blink of an eye.”