AVDA reports increase in demand for domestic abuse services

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) presented its Community Service Award to Kol, a therapy dog who provided assistance to AVDA clients, college students and people in hospitals and at hospice. The canine, who has passed away, is shown with his owner, Jane Eisenberg. Photo courtesy of Ivan Gastaldo Photography.

Luncheon speaker tells of near-death attack by spouse

By: Dale King Contributing Writer

The annual AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) “Heart of a Woman” luncheon in Boca Raton frequently touches on bittersweet topics, even though the overall thrust is to “celebrate the strength, courage and determination of women, particularly survivors of domestic violence.”

This year’s event, its 13th yearly get-together, brought hundreds of men and women to the Royal Palm Yacht Club for an update on AVDA’s task in the community, a speaker and many thank-yous to the people who help the organization with financial support and volunteerism.

AVDA honored a Boca Raton couple who’ve spent 30 years supporting and donating to the organization that provides a host of services to abuse victims, including emergency and transitional shelter, outreach tasks and education/prevention programs throughout Palm Beach County.

The co-chairs of the luncheon also reported that the need for AVDA’s services to community residents has grown during the past 12 months.

The gallery also heard from a woman who survived a domestic abuse attack that nearly took her life more than a decade ago.

But the most touching portion of the program came as AVDA leaders presented the group’s Heart of a Woman Community Service Award.

Mistress of Ceremonies Liz Quirantes from Channel 12 News announced the recipient of the award was Kol, a gentle, loving four-legged furry canine who has helped the young and old endure the rigors of hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities, among other places and situations.

Quirantes said Kol helped soothe and console survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting spree left 17 students and staff dead.

Kol spent four years helping the folks who found security, care and assistance in AVDA facilities and programs. He also responded to Florida Atlantic University, Palm Beach State College and Lynn University in Boca Raton to calm students’ anxieties during exam study time.

The mood in the dining room seemed to fall physically when Quirantes said that, “Kol has passed away.” And after a pause, added, “But his legacy will continue.”

A championship Golden Retriever, Kol was owned by Jane Eisenberg of Boynton Beach.

Earlier in the meeting, luncheon co-chairs Rosemary Krieger and Anne Vegso stepped to the podium to look back at the work load shouldered by the organization during the past year.

“AVDA responded to more than 3,000 hotline calls,” they said. “Residents in our emergency shelter remained in the shelter 30 percent longer than last year in order to find alternative safe living arrangements. We served almost 300 women, men and children in our outreach services, a 47 percent increase.”

“AVDA promotes violence-free relationship,” said Rosemary, who, along with her husband, Ben, were honored by the assistance group for their three decades of advocacy.

“Rosemary Krieger has been a strong advocate for AVDA for the past 30 years,” says a statement from the AVDA Board of Directors. “She has supported her desire to raise awareness for ADVA through successful fundraising events, service on AVDA’s Advisory Board and contributing to various event committees.”

Calling Rosemary “an energetic, little dynamo, tirelessly contributing her time, energy and talent to numerous organizations,” the board said she and Ben “were the first donors to our transitional housing building at AVDA’s Casa Vegso, with the naming of two rooms for them. Their generosity helped kick off the successful capital campaign to fund this building that has been providing residential services for the past 15 years.”

Pam O’Brien, president and CEO of AVDA, used her speech time at the annual event to announce its Life Enrichment Center will open shortly. “AVDA will be leasing 3,333 square feet and has an option to purchase the 5,567 square foot property.”  She said AVDA “is asking our Community of Hope to help us purchase the property and raise an endowment fund” to sustain it.

O’Brien introduced Ann and John Wood who have donated $500,000 to buy the building. “We are asking the community to raise $500,000 to match this amount.”

Keynote speaker was Audrey-May Prosper, a domestic violence victim who has become an anti-violence advocate.

She told the audience that in 2009, her then-husband forced her at knifepoint into their garage where he tried to rape her. “He hit me in the head with a hammer four times. He threw gasoline on me and ignited it with a candle.”

Burned over 80 percent of her body, she survived the horrific violence inflicted by a man she once loved and who had fathered two children with her. She underwent 17 surgeries and nine procedures before her life took a turn back to normalcy.

Her ex-husband, she said, is now serving a life-plus-60-year term in prison.

“In 2009, on my son’s birthday, I was in the intensive care unit, coming out of a coma,” Audrey-May told the gathering, and underscored “the good that organizations like AVDA do.”

Audrey-May is now a women’s empowerment leader and speaker who has appeared on many TV shows, in newspaper stories and on other media.