(BEDFORD) - Two local victim advocates received the first-ever Hoosier Hearts Hero awards Monday from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
"Victim advocates and shelter volunteers should not go unrecognized for their efforts and commitment to serving others," Zoeller said. "Crime victims face many challenges and without people like our two award recipients their voices may go unheard. That's why there is a tremendous need for advocates who are dedicated to informing victims of their rights and promoting victim participation in the criminal justice system. It is our hope the Hoosier Hearts Hero awards spotlight advocates' outstanding efforts and encourage others to serve those in their community."
This is the first year for the Hoosier Heart awards and both recipients work for the Hoosier Hills Prisoners And Community Together (PACT). Kathy Kuss, associate director of the not-for-profit, said the organization's mission is to provide and promote opportunities for community involvement in restorative justice.
The Hoosier Hills PACT service area includes Washington, Orange, Harrison, Crawford, Scott and Lawrence counties.
Heather Woloshen received the Career Advocate Hoosier Heart Hero Award for her commitment to helping victims of domestic violence and advocacy for sexual assault victims and their families.
"I am so honored to win the Hoosier Hearts Hero Award for Distinguished Advocacy, as I am sure it was not an easy decision for the attorney general to make," Woloshen said.
"There is a lot of great advocacy work going on in the state so I am humbled to be recognized at this level. I am so pleased to be working at a job I love and for an organization like Hoosier Hills PACT which has always put victims concerns and safety first. I have never thought of myself as a hero, but I have certainly seen many heroic qualities in many of my victims. I am always amazed at the strength that they show when faced with such adversity. To be a voice and advocate for so many amazing people throughout the past 12 years has been truly amazing."
Kuss said she nominated Woloshen because of her outstanding dedication and enthusiasm for helping others.
"Heather's commitment to, and concern for, victims and survivors of domestic violence has made her a standout as an advocate," said Kathy Kuss, associate director of Hoosier Hills PACT. "Heather has made it her mission to ensure that victims' rights and dignity are protected, and that their safety and that of their children remains paramount. Shortly after I began working with Heather I learned that due to financial difficulties for DVIN shortly before PACT was approached for assistance, Heather had worked for eight weeks unpaid rather than allow the office to close. As a single mother this was a great sacrifice, but Heather explained that she simply could not abandon her clients for that time. I am extremely pleased that her dedication and commitment to victims and survivors is being recognized with a Hoosier Heart Hero Award."
Bill Rothrock received the Volunteer Advocate Hoosier Heart Hero Award for donating 480 hours of his time to the shelter program since 2000.
"I feel very humbled to receive this recognition; I don't know what to say other thank you," Rothrock said.
Connie Benson, director of the shelter, nominated Rothrock for helping with tasks ranging from electrical and plumbing work to gardening and picking up Christmas gifts for children.
"No matter when we call on Bill, he is there to help," Benson said. "He arrives with his toolbox, ladder or whatever he needs to get the job done. No job is too large or too small. Little does Bill realize the tiny eyes that are watching him as he is replacing a light bulb or when he is repairing a leg on the kitchen table. Those eyes are those of our small and silent victims. Those are the eyes of the children who have witnessed the abuse of a family member and have come to the shelter to remain safe. Many of the children have never had a positive male role model in their life. Bill helps to provide that positive influence and he doesn't even realize it. We need more Bill's in this world to make a difference in the lives of victims."
Nominations for the awards were due by Jan. 31 and included an overview of the nominee's service and explained how the individual exemplifies the 2012 Crime Victims' Rights Week theme, "Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim."
State Senator Brent Steele made the following statement congratulating Woloshen and Rothrock.
"The men and women who work behind the scenes to support victims of sexual assault or domestic violence do not always make headlines, but their efforts are invaluable," Steele said. "Dedicated advocates like Heather help to make our communities safe and strong by encouraging victims to speak out. I think I represent many Hoosiers in our area when I say I'm grateful to Heather for her lasting commitment to the people of Bedford."
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