SEMO NASV director to stay on to train replacement

Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tammy Gwaltney, director of Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, greets a client Tuesday at the NASV office. Gwaltney announced her retirement a year ago but has decided to stay a few more years to train her replacement. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Tammy Gwaltney's departure from the director's position at the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, slated to have occurred at the beginning of this month, will be pushed back a few years.

After six months of searching for a replacement, sifting through a handful of applicants from around the country and conducting interviews, Gwaltney said she was unable to find anyone who met the qualifications.

"There were good people who applied and interviewed, but there wasn't anyone we really felt brought the whole package," Gwaltney said Tuesday.

Instead, the NASV will hire an assistant director and Gwaltney will stay on to train that person to eventually take over as director.

What seemed to be lacking from applicants was a high level of administrative experience, though many people boasted solid experience in victim advocacy and clinical research, Gwaltney said.

Tammy Gwaltney, director of Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, talks Tuesday with longtime co-worker Kathy Blevins, a nurse practitioner, at the NASV office. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Gwaltney said operating the NASV and several other rural not-for-profit organizations has taught her a director's role shifts from public relations department to human resources department to fundraising chair to occasionally janitor.

"You need to know that you're not too good to do any job," Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney said her original decision to leave the NASV wasn't easy but that the organization had a reached a point where it would continue to thrive after she left.

"I felt we had come a long way from our humble beginnings," Gwaltney said.

The idea for the NASV sprung from what many in the region agreed was a gap in services when it came to victims of sexual violence, Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney, then working full time, knew a child-advocacy center was needed but wasn't sure what road to take in creating one.

"We had no staff, no money and no office," she said.

When the NASV first opened in 1997, it consisted of Gwaltney and two nurses, all three of whom worked elsewhere full time, and operated out of a basement in the office of a local physician. The NASV now has 15 staff members and an office at Doctors' Park.

"We were thinking, 'Hey, this can only get better,'" Gwaltney said.

Even after more than a decade, the NASV doesn't have strong name-recognition in the community, which is partly by design, Gwaltney said. NASV clientele, victims of sexual assault or violence, must have privacy and confidentiality, making it a challenge to balance that need with fundraising efforts, she said.

One annual fundraiser

Gwaltney decided at NASV's inception that the center would only host one annual fundraising event, a golf tournament, and send out one mailing to request donations.

"My commitment was that I wouldn't saturate the community with fundraisers; as a nonprofit I believe it's my responsibility to find funding from a variety of sources," Gwaltney said.

A majority of funding for the NASV comes from billable medical care.

In addition to conducting forensic interviews and exams with victims, the NASV provides counseling, advocacy services and training for police and medical professionals.

Advocates handle everything from helping victims through the judicial process to assisting them in car repairs so they can have more independence, Gwaltney said.

"Recently, one family didn't have a front door on their house, so we found a door and put it on for them," Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney said she's not certain what's next on the horizon after she does part ways with the NASV. She's considered going back to school to pursue a doctorate or a law degree, and she's an avid writer.

The challenge will be finding an outlet to put the knowledge she's gathered about victim advocacy to use, she said.

"I know I'm not finished in this field," Gwaltney said.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

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