Take 5 with Lauren Daley

Lauren Daley heads up DVSS


For LAUREN DALEY, serving as the executive director of Wilmington’s Domestic Violence Shelter and Service Inc. (DVSS) isn’t just a job. It’s where she’s supposed to be.

Daley has always wanted to help people, a trait she says she got from her mother who is a nurse. That desire led Daley to pursue a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

After graduating in 2010, Daley worked in development at Cape Fear LifeCare and Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts. In 2014, she became the director of development and operations at DVSS, and was asked to lead the organization this October.

“By working with nonprofits, I can serve individuals who need help as well as the community,” says Daley.

As executive director, Daley plans to continue the many services DVSS currently offers, which include 24-hour crisis intervention, emergency shelters, referral to legal and medical help, counseling, financial, job, and housing assistance, advocacy, and education and outreach.

Daley also wants to provide a variety of new therapies to DVSS’ clients and expand the organization’s outreach to different populations. Many people don’t know about the many different types of domestic violence, such as emotional or financial abuse, or what it looks like, Daley says.

She also hopes to make everyone aware that domestic violence is a serious issue in our community and that DVSS is here and can help.

It’s impossible to put a value on DVSS’ work. The organization helps women, children, and men from all walks of life escape from dangerous situations and reclaim their lives.

“We do wraparound services to make people whole,” says Daley. “What we do is not only life-changing, its often lifesaving.”

The need for DVSS’ services has never been greater. With the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest afflicting America today, requests for DVSS’ services have doubled and requests for shelters have tripled, according to Daley.

“There isn’t one person who hasn’t been affected,” says Daley. “The virus and other issues in our society are adding extra stress and tension on volatile situations. We’re seeing it across all economic classes and ethnicities. No one is immune from the world we’re living in right now.

Given that, Daley is ensuring that DVSS stays connected to the domestic violence victims and the organization’s services continue without interruption—even amid the pandemic. Currently, a lot of its work is done online. For example, instead of holding face-to-face meetings with clients, advocates work remotely. And, instead of empowerment meetings, DVSS offers counseling over the phone. The organization has also added a new chat feature on its website.

“We’re providing the same services, but they look different,” says Daley. “We’re still here.”

Daley’s passion and commitment to DVSS has only grown over her years at the organization, and she hopes to continue this work far into the future.

“This is it for me,” Daley says. I hope to spend at least 30 years at DVSS. This is home.”

Take 5 with Lauren Daley

What are your goals for DVSS?

“I want to continue to grow our current programming, which includes 24-hour emergency interventions; emergency shelters; referral to legal and medical help; counseling; financial, job, and housing assistance; advocacy; and education and outreach. I also hope to provide a variety of new therapies to our clients and expand our outreach to different populations. I want everyone to be aware of our services and realize that domestic violence is a serious issue in our community.”

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

“The uncertainty of funding. Our services are free, but it’s not free to provide those services. While we are blessed to have government and foundation grants as well as group and individual donors, we always need new donors. I want to make sure DVSS will always be here to help our clients.”

How has COVID-19 affected DVSS’ services?

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people we serve: The need for our services has doubled, and the need for shelters has tripled. We’ve also had to change how we offer our services. For example, instead of meeting our clients in person, our advocates work remotely; and instead of holding empowerment groups, we counsel people one-on-one on the phone. We added a new chat feature on our website, too. Our services look different, but we’re making sure we don’t lose our connection with survivors.”

What has surprised you about DVSS’ clients?

“Initially I was surprised by the array of people we serve. No one population or group is immune to domestic violence. Victims come from all races, ethnicities, and economic levels. I’m also surprised by our clients’ strength and spirit. They come from awful situations that are often dangerous to leave. But, our clients are getting the help they need, and they do the difficult work they have to do to reclaim their lives. I don’t know if I could be that strong.”

How do you keep your spirits up when you see so much heartbreak?

“I focus on the positive. We may not reach every single person, but we are making a difference. And, we’re doing good work that can have life-changing, and often lifesaving, impacts. You have to see that you are the good – that our team and advocates are the good. And, our survivors who come to us, they are the good.”

To request help from DVSS or to volunteer or donate, go to domesticviolence-wilm.org or call 343-0703.

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch