WINGS CEO and Hoffman Estates citizen Rebecca Snyders Darr, forth with six added recipients, has been awarded the 2018 Liberal Arts & Sciences Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois area she accelerating with a Bachelor of Science in attitude in 1990.
It was Valentine’s Day 2005, and for the aboriginal time aback she could remember, Sarah was safe. Sarah had taken her two adolescent boys and fled an calumniating relationship, acceptable one of the aboriginal bodies to acquisition apartment in a new WINGS safe abode in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows.
“Sarah told me that Valentine’s Day, on the day you apprehend adulation the most, was the day aback she got aching the worst,” said Darr, an LAS alum who directs WINGS (Women In Charge Growing Stronger), the better arrangement of calm corruption shelters in Illinois.
Darr led the accomplishment to body the Rolling Meadows safe abode in 2005, as able-bodied as addition safe abode in Chicago in 2013, not to acknowledgment several capricious homes and apartments for women, men, and accouchement artifice calm violence.
Since Darr began as controlling administrator of WINGS in 1999, the alignment has broadcast its agents from eight bodies to 80, and it has developed its assets from $600,000 to $22 million. Best importantly, she said, WINGS has helped bags of corruption victims, earning her the 2018 LAS Humanitarian Award.
Darr grew up in Alton, Illinois, area she said, “I consistently knew I capital to be in the allowance profession. It was article instinctual.” It was additionally modeled by her mother and grandmother. “I grew up watching my grandma booty affliction of everybody in a baby boondocks and my mother giving the covering off her aback to addition in need.”
In fact, Darr was so compassionate as a adolescent that she already approved to accomplishment a bee drowning in her Kool-Aid aback she was 5 years old. She got stung instead. At age 13, she abstruse addition assignment in affinity aback the family’s abode austere down, and she apparent what it’s like to depend on the advice of others.
“We’re all in this together,” she said.
Darr majored in attitude at Illinois, area she was in the ceremoniousness program, accomplishing analysis on factors affecting mood. She additionally got hands-on acquaintance at the Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana, area she formed in the boys’ accumulation home. These adventures assertive her she would abundant rather assignment with bodies than on research.
After finishing her bachelor’s amount in 1990, she took a job at Cunningham Children’s Home for two years. She additionally affiliated her aerial academy sweetheart, Joe Darr (BS, 1990; MS, 1992; automated engineering) a U of I alum who is on the Bronze Tablet.
The adolescent brace confused to San Jose, California, area Darr accustomed her master’s amount in analytic attitude from John F. Kennedy University. She additionally put in 3,000 internship hours, alive primarily with accouchement in assorted programs. For instance, she counseled kids at a academy for first- to 12th-graders who had been kicked out of every another academy in Silicon Valley.
Despite all of her experience, aback Darr and her bedmate confused aback to Illinois in 1998, she beatific out about 200 resumes and didn’t get a distinct response. Her breach assuredly came aback she met Rita Meyer Canning, a affiliate of the WINGS lath of admiral who additionally happened to be a adolescent Illinois alumna.
“I told Rita I had a master’s in analytic attitude and a lot of acquaintance alive with children,” Darr said. “And again she looks me actual attentively and asks, ‘But what do you apperceive about architecture calm abandon centers?’ I replied, ‘Nothing. I don’t body things. I’m a psychologist’.”
Darr anon had to apprentice how to body things aback she was accustomed the job of controlling administrator of WINGS and anon began amalgam a apartment in Schaumburg.
WINGS additionally began adopting money for the new 15,000-square-foot safe abode in Rolling Meadows, but they faced acute action from abounding in the neighborhood. Bodies active adjacent were anxious about assurance should an abuser clue bottomward a apron or partner, alike admitting the acreage anon surrounding the apartment was absolutely commercial.
Darr alike accustomed afterlife threats from bodies opposed, and she had to be escorted from affairs by police.
“We started out with 105 affronted people, but at the end of the zoning process, a year and a bisected later, I had alone bristles bodies still adjoin me,” she said. It formed out beautifully, and they’ve never had a complaint — “not a peep,” she said.
In 2013, Chicago accustomed $1.8 actor in a accusation adjoin a band club for aback taxes, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel absitively to use it for a new calm abandon shelter. The aftereffect was a 23,000-square-foot WINGS safe abode with 40 emergency beds, three two-bedroom apartments, and retail amplitude area they will accessible a resale store.
“We accomplish about 25 percent of our gross acquirement from our resale stores,” she said.
Darr additionally addendum that there is absolutely a U of I attendance aural WINGS because her lath admiral and arch banking administrator are both Illinois alumni.
“U of I grads are accomplishing a lot to save the apple in Chicago,” she said.
The alignment has a advanced wingspan, accouterment counseling, a hotline, training for hospital agents on administration corruption victims, and a mentoring program. Darr hopes to actualize agnate mentoring networks in added cities, area WINGS can articulation bodies who accept gone through the aforementioned struggles.
WINGS has an absorbing success rate, because 94 percent of those in their safe houses do not acknowledgment to the abuser. And aback bodies go through their best program, the success amount is 100 percent.
Darr additionally dreams of anytime architecture “Nicole’s House” in Los Angeles. She aboriginal met Denise Brown, the sister of O.J. Simpson’s collapsed wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, aback Denise batten in San Francisco. They accept started to accomplish affairs for the shelter.
Although she is a builder, Darr said she is still a psychologist. She uses her amount “every distinct day” because she always connects with the bodies who are funding, constructing, or active in the shelters.
One of those access is Sarah, who is now chargeless of her abuser. The abuser anesthetized away, but Sarah still lives with accomplished trauma. One way she copes with memories of her Valentine’s Day corruption is by carrying flowers to added women anniversary year.
Project Apartment Cupid started small, with Sarah affairs a dozen roses for 10 women in her safe house. Darr helped her body up her activity and accession funds from sources such as the Chicago Bears. This year, Darr asked to drive the van as Sarah delivered 150 dozen roses to women at bristles altered shelters.
As they fabricated their rounds, Darr recalled, she saw a woman “walk up to Sarah and ask, ‘Who are those roses for?’ Sarah exclaims, ‘They’re for you!’ And the woman bursts into tears and said, ‘For me?’ The woman hugged Sarah, saying, ‘No one has anytime done article so nice for me.’
“Sarah responded, ‘We aloof appetite you to feel admired on Valentine’s Day.”
Rebecca Darr wants anybody to feel admired every day.
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