[Photo Caption - Present at the announcement were Kathleen Tanner, executive director, Equinox Community Services of Albany; Diana Erlich, vice president, Advocacy & Communications, Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce; Damaris Mills, graduate of the chamber's Entrepreneurship Assistance Program and a domestic violence survivor; Amy Barasch, executive director, New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence; John O'Malley, public relations manager, Verizon Wireless Upstate New York region; Sam Caldwell, director, State Government Relations, Verizon; and Michael Breslin, Albany County Executive.]
Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation are donating a total of $45,000 to fund the grant program which will benefit domestic violence survivors who are planning to start a small business. Grants will range from $500 to $2,500 per applicant and can be used to make a down payment on a work space, purchase a computer or other office equipment, purchase initial product inventory, as collateral to support the receipt of a small business loan, pay for child care or transportation necessary to complete entrepreneurship classes, or other start-up costs. Applicants will be required to submit a business plan, and be enrolled in, or have completed an entrepreneurship assistance program, many of which are offered across the state through local chambers of commerce or schools and universities.
The grant program is based on the premise that domestic violence survivors, through their past experience and the coping and problem-solving skills they developed to escape the cycle of violence, are uniquely prepared to step into an entrepreneurial role. The partnership between entrepreneurship programs and domestic violence programs makes a great deal of sense: in 2007-08, 60 percent of the state-supported entrepreneurship graduates were female, and the programs overall resulted in significant increased sales, employee retention, and new jobs. In New York State, 87 percent of all business enterprises have four employees or less, which illustrates that entrepreneurs and small business owners play a significant role in the state’s economy and will be a key force in the state’s economic recovery.
Knowing of Verizon’s strong support of domestic violence survivors through its HopeLine® initiative and other grant-making activities, OPDV Executive Director Amy Barasch approached them with the idea for the scholarships, and the company put the idea into action. The program was announced today during a joint press conference at Equinox Community Services of Albany, which has been providing domestic violence services since 1984.
“For many domestic violence survivors, escaping an abusive spouse or partner is only half the battle,” said Russ Preite, president of Verizon Wireless’ Upstate New York Region. “Moving forward and creating an independent, self-sufficient life is a critical next step. It’s our hope that the Verizon Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Program will help some of these women put their hard-won skills to work to successfully bring a small business to life and regain their independence.”
Added Barasch: “We are so pleased that Verizon was interested in developing their historic support of domestic violence survivors in this new direction. In tough fiscal times such as these, creating small businesses can actually be a smart economic decision, and for domestic violence survivors, a safe one as well. We hope that this new resource will encourage entrepreneurship programs across the state to establish working relationships with their local domestic violence providers, giving them access to promising new students who will be able to reach safe self-sufficiency while growing the state’s economy.”
The successful development of a small business can bring survivors increased control over their working lives, create important financial and social opportunities for them, and help ensure their long-term safety and stability. Many existing entrepreneurship programs have graduated domestic violence survivors whether they know it or not. At the press conference, survivor Damaris Mills spoke about her small business, how it was a good economic solution for her situation, and how this kind of opportunity will help others follow the path she has taken.
Interested individuals can obtain a grant application through their local domestic violence organization, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Verizon Wireless has a long history of supporting domestic violence survivors and organizations through its HopeLine program. Through HopeLine, Verizon Wireless collects, refurbishes and recycles old cell phones and accessories, and uses the proceeds to provide funding to domestic violence organizations and survivors.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless operates the nation’s most reliable and largest wireless voice and 3G data network, serving nearly 93 million customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 81,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ: VZ) and Vodafone (LSE, NASDAQ: VOD). For more information, visit www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.
Verizon Wireless, a recognized corporate leader in the fight against domestic violence, works to combat domestic violence and raise awareness of the issue through the company’s HopeLine program. Marking its 15th year in 2010, HopeLine today collects wireless phones and accessories from any wireless service provider, and then refurbishes the phones or recycles them in an environmentally friendly way. Proceeds from the HopeLine program benefit victims of domestic violence and non-profit advocacy agencies, providing essential communication tools of wireless phones and wireless services, and financial grants. Phone donations are accepted at all Verizon Wireless Stores across the country. For additional information, please visit www.verizonwireless.com/hopeline.
The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) is a state agency charged with improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence. OPDV provides guidance to Executive level staff on policy and legislation; conducts statewide community outreach and public education programs; and trains professionals on addressing domestic violence in a wide array of disciplines, including child welfare, law enforcement, local district social service providers, and health care professionals.