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CADA’s Comeback

The agency that assists victims of sexual and domestic abuse in Island County has diminished from public view over the last couple of years.

But now Margie Porter, the new executive director of Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse, is working to lead the nonprofit organization in a new direction, focusing on partnerships with other agencies and offering quality assistance to those who need it most.

“If we are truly going to help out clients, we all need to work together,” Porter said. “We want to build partnerships with the other agencies so that we can work together to help our clients become independent and have better lives.”

CADA is Island County’s domestic violence and sexual assault agency. They provide free, confidential assistance for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, rape, child sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

Porter took over as the full-time director of CADA in March after the former director, Diane Jhueck, resigned. Porter has a degree in clinical social work and experience counseling victims of domestic abuse in a district attorney’s office in New Mexico.

Porter used to work for CADA, but left to work for the Navy last June. Howard Thomas, chairman of CADA’s volunteer board of directors, said Porter was both the staff and board choice to fill the position.

She has a tough job ahead of her. CADA was once very visible and active on the island. It was involved in the popular Festival of Trees fund-raiser, put out regular newsletters, had active programs in schools and had close relationships with law enforcement, the prosecutor and other agencies.

Things changed for CADA about three years when the board of directors fired the long-time director and a controversy ensued. There was turnover of some key positions, including one staff member who was sent to Iraq.

Thomas said CADA lost some of it visibility when the office was moved from Goldie Road to a small space in Coupe’s Village in Coupeville. For a time, clients weren’t allowed to go to the office, but were supposed to call and set up a meeting with CADA staff. Porter said that’s changed now.

In addition, Porter said she’s already met and repaired relations with many other agencies and organizations, and also plans to have brown-bag lunches between her staff and the people who work at those agencies.

Julie Fontaine, shelter manager for CADA, said she’s excited about the new energy Porter brings to the organization, especially her focus on working more closely with the Opportunity Council, the Housing Authority, the Department of Social and Health Services, Island Thrift, law enforcement and a plethora of other agencies.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “We always refer people to other agencies. Now we’ll be able to work closely with them.”

Thomas said CADA board members also made the decision to use the organization’s resources to help victims of sexual and domestic violence instead of educating the community about the problem.

“We really are kind of focusing our efforts less on eradication of domestic violence,” he said, “and more on services to the victims.”

Thomas said the board members are going to put a concerted effort into fund raising so that CADA can become “less grant dependent.” He wants to help get residents involved and informed.

“We want to wean ourselves off grants,” he said, “and find ourselves some local sources.”

He said CADA used to work with Big Brothers / Big Sisters on the Festival of Trees, but Thomas said they basically sold their half of the fund-raiser to BB/BS. The event makes about $80,000, which was split between the two organizations. The problem, Thomas said, was that it took too much staff time away from providing services.

Both Thomas and Porter agree that fund raising should be done primarily by members of the board, not staff members.

“We have a great board of directors that is very active in the community,” Porter said.

Thomas said CADA introduced a “10 X 12 Giving Program,” in which donors give a small amount each month, but “it wasn’t terribly successful.”

Yet when it comes to money, Porter said CADA is not in danger of going under. CADA currently receives about $483,000 a year in state and federal grants, though Thomas pointed out that grant funding can be unreliable.

“We’re doing fine,” she said, “but I’m not going to say good.”

CADA is in the process of moving out of the women’s shelter on Pioneer Way and into a new shelter behind the Oak Harbor Police Department. Marjie’s House, a combination emergency shelter and transitional housing complex, is named after Marjie Monnett, a family self-sufficiency coordinator for the Housing Authority of Island County. Monnett, along with her daughter, Holly, were shot and killed by Holly’s boyfriend in June 2002 .

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