ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Lighthouse of Baldwin County celebrated its 25th anniversary with a luncheon held Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the Baldwin County Central Annex in Robertsdale.
The event will honored all current and past Lighthouse Board members, including the organization’s first executive director, Jerry Sommer Davis, who is also a current member of the Board.
“I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has had a hand in making this organization what it is,” said Rhyon Ervin, who is just the third executive director to serve the organization since its founding. Former executive director Joanne Shiels Barfield was also recognized and was present for the event.
“Our mission has always been the elimination of family violence and sexual assault through intervention, education, services and collaboration with the community.”
Judge Pamela Baschab, who was instrumental in founding the organization in 1994, served as the keynote speaker for the luncheon and talked about the early days when the organization was established as the Baldwin County Family Violence Project, and finding executive director Jerry Sommer through an article in the local newspaper.
“We could not have been more different, but we worked together to establish this organization against all odds,” Baschab said of Sommer. “We were like Lucy and Ethel, I’ll let you decide which is which. I was the one who had all of the crazy ideas and she was the one who would always rein me in and figure out how to make things work.”
Based in Robertsdale, The Lighthouse opened in 1994 and “is committed to providing support, preventing violence and promoting justice for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
The Lighthouse is authorized by the county District Attorney’s office as the official domestic violence shelter in Baldwin County and also provides a 24-hour crisis line, individual and group counseling, case management, court advocacy services, transitional housing, advocacy for children and prevention education.
The Lighthouse is a non-discriminatory, equal opportunity agency, partially supported by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, Victims of Crime Act, Violence Against Women Act, Department of Public Health, U.S. Department of Housing and Development, and the Baldwin County United Way.
The Lighthouse is a member of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Alabama Coalition Against Sexual Violence.
Established with $75,000 in seed money, the group leased property for $450 a month before receiving a donation of land from Jewell Campbell, Baschab said. A shelter was built with a $250,000 grant obtained by the city of Robertsdale.
All former board members and staff were also recognized during the luncheon.
Board members for 2019-20 are Michael Gorum, president; Andolyn Fitzgerald, vice president; Jerry Sommer Davis, treasurer; Susan Young, secretary; Joan Dunlap, Keri Green, Donna Hornsby, Kristin Phillips, Jason Spry, Thomas Chad Vanderheyden, Bernadette Dees, Thad Evans, Bonnie Hindman, Jackilynn Langley, Nikki Rider and Michelle Tesch.
Ervin also recognized past and current Lighthouse staff, which consists of Raven Chadwick-Ates, weekend advocate; Sonja Bowen, night manager; Susanne Glass, operations manager; Joyce Lumar, transitional housing service coordinator; Jessica Nelson, SA on-call advocate; Joan Salzmann, assistant court advocate; Norma White, community advocate; Angela Bernard, direct services advocate; Kendall Buchanan, sexual assault services manager; Amanda Glass, family resources worker; Kimberlie Jackson, weekend advocate; Dana McLeod, director of programs; Ashley Palmer, shelter advocate; Cody West community education specialist; Kathy Wood, court advocate coordinator; Diane Zills, night advocate; Jan Brown, Evelyn Magretto, Rita Levens and Brenda Naftel, relief workers.
“You are the lifesavers for countless women and children who have come to The Lighthouse through the years seeking shelter from the storm of domestic violence,” Ervin said. “Without you none of this would have been possible.”
The program also include musical selections by Marjorie Searcy and a survivor’s message presented by Analisha Banks.
Banks told her story of coming to the Lighthouse in 2013 from Atmore.
“I had had enough,” she said. “I decided that I did not want my kids to grow up thinking that this was normal, that verbal abuse and physical abuse was normal.”
Banks said at the time she had never heard of The Lighthouse, but just days before she left her home, someone had given her a flier from the organization.
When the opportunity presented itself, she said, she gathered up her son, who was home with her, picked up her other two children after school and went to a park in Atmore.
“I didn’t know where I was going, I just knew I needed to get out,” she said.
While at the park, she remembered the flier in her pocket and called the number.
“She told me I had 24 hours to get to the shelter and that I needed to go to the Bay Minette Police Department and they would escort me there,” she said. “They worked with me and fought with me every step of the way and it is because of them that I am where I am today and my kids are all honor students.”
Ervin also made special presentations to Baschab and Sonya Osborn for 24 years of service to the organization. Closing remarks were presented by Board President Michael Gorum.
Anyone who would like more information on The Lighthouse and its services can contact Ervin at 251-947-6197 or they can visit The Lighthouse of Baldwin County page at facebook.com/abeacon.