Her mind went blank. Her head tilted to one side. And her stomach dropped. Ashley Riley-Lopes thought, “Who is calling me from the Lieutenant Governor’s office?”
Riley-Lopes is the executive director of Tu Casa in Alamosa, Colorado – a domestic violence and sexual assault organization and shelter that works to empower adults and children to live healthy, violence-free lives.
“I literally ran to pick up the phone and I’m surprised I didn’t trip over my chair,” said Riley-Lopes.
A small fall might have been worth it. The call was to congratulate her organization on receiving the 2014 Governor’s Service Award for Outstanding Nonprofit Organization.
“We are so grateful to even be nominated for this award — and to receive it is just amazing,” said Riley-Lopes. “We were one of only two non-profits to receive this honor, and the only rural award winner.”
Tu Casa offers free, confidential, bilingual services to residents in the six counties that make up the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. For the past eight years, Verizon’s HopeLine program has been proud to support Tu Casa as it works towards healthy, violence-free lives and relationships in the San Luis Valley. Tu Casa does this through advocating and educating at every level, including with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, school children, congregations, law enforcement and the justice system.
“Domestic violence is a hidden epidemic in the United States, and it has devastating impacts on individuals, families and communities alike,” said Chris Lewter, Verizon Wireless regional president. “At Verizon Wireless, we are committed to ending domestic violence and supporting organizations that help survivors.”
Tu Casa was nominated by three local residents, including Kathy Rogers, for its outstanding work in the community.
“I have never seen such support in our community for a non-profit organization like I have for Tu Casa,” said Rogers. “Ashley and her team have made a significant difference and I’m proud they received this well-deserved and prestigious honor.”
A large portion of the Tu Casa staff made the trip to Colorado’s capitol in August to receive the Governor’s Service Award. During the ceremony, Lt. Governor John Garcia said organizations like Tu Casa are what make Colorado great.
Before Tu Casa, even if victims of domestic violence wanted to speak out, there was no safe place in the San Luis Valley to go and very little support. Tu Casa’s work has transformed the Valley’s understanding of healthy relationships, respect and personal empowerment.