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Director of alternatives to violence program wants program to continue

July 16, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- Proof that the Eastern Panhandle's Community Alternatives to Violence program works, in spite of a woeful lack of funds, is evident in the fact that of 54 clients who went through it at one time, only two returned.

Those numbers showed up in a study of the program that was completed between 2002 and 2005. The program was created 13 years ago to curb domestic violence in the three-county region.

Carolyn Zdziera, executive director of Community Alternatives to Violence, appealed to the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday to do again what it did in 2007 -- give $2,500 to her program.

Zdziera left with the commissioners' praise and blessings for her agency's efforts on behalf of abused spouses, but no firm commitment for any money.

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"Nothing is simple if you have a passion for what you're doing," Zdziera told the commission. She is her agency's only paid employee, and she works part time. There also is an 11-member board of directors.

The agency shares office space at 732 W. King St. in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Each client -- more than 95 percent of whom are men -- spends 32 weeks taking classes in a family violence prevention program. The program emphasizes power and control issues that lead to spousal abuse. Clients deal with such subjects as handling relationships, negotiation, nonthreatening behavior and respect, Zdziera said.

"Community Alternatives to Violence accepts court-ordered perpetrators and volunteer referrals," she said. "We have programs for people who want to improve their lives and relationships."

The classes are taught by licensed group leaders in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

Joe Sacchet, executive director of the soon-to-open Community Corrections Day Reporting Center in Martinsburg, said Thursday the center will contract with Zdziera's group to provide a weekly class for his clients. The reporting center, an alternating sentencing program, accepts nonviolent offenders who are sent there instead of jail.

Zdziera said about half of her agency's $44,000 budget comes from fees charged to clients, when they can pay.

Fifty clients go through the classes at one time, including 30 from Berkeley County and 10 each from Morgan and Jefferson counties.

Morgan County gave the agency $1,000 in 2007, but Berkeley County never has contributed anything, Zdziera said.

Zdziera tries to raise money by recruiting area restaurants to contribute a percentage of their income to the agency. She also places donation jars in businesses.

"We just try to take things one day at a time," she said.

"People want to sweep this problem under the rug," she said. "Many have the philosophy that as long as it doesn't happen to them or it happens in somebody else's home, it's none of their business."

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