Awards and recognition are not why Jan Jones got into her current line of work as Executive Director of Safehope, providing advocacy and support for survivors and victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Harvey County.
In fact, when asked about the recent honor of being named Advocate of the Year by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence at a statewide awards luncheon Feb. 6 in Topeka, Jones is quick to deflect and note that the award is the culmination of a team effort — from the survivors who come in seeking help to the staff at Safehope who provide that assistance to the community partners in the county that make their work possible.
Clearly, though, Jones' approach to her work illustrates why she was singled out in receiving this year's award.
"No matter whether I'm the executive director, I will always be an advocate," Jones said, "and advocacy means that at the forefront will be that focus on survivor-centered services or victim-centered services — making them better and improving them."
“For us, she is always the tireless advocate who comes in early and stays late, teaching new advocates, mentoring new leaders and supporting staff and volunteers who do the work that is so desperately needed,” said Safehope Program Director Laura Patzner. “She gives us an example of what we can be, always shining a light on a path that is not so smooth but leads to our goal. She stands with us, encourages us and leads us as we create the end to sexual and domestic violence.”
Jones' work as an advocate began 15 years ago. With a background in psychology and sociology, and given her passion for helping others, she felt called to do more — and a shelter coordinator position with Safehope (then the Harvey County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force) had become available.
"This came up, and I've always been involved with my community, and truthfully didn't even know that there was a shelter or any type of crisis program in Harvey County when I did, but I felt like it was something that I could make a difference in to help others. That's been part of my passion all throughout my life, so it just felt like it would be a good fit," Jones said. "I felt like that for me my mission field was here in Harvey County, so to speak."
Jones worked her way up to executive director and, while she is quick to praise the employees, board members and community partners she collaborates with, her singular focus has helped expand Safehope from a shelter with three employees serving one county to an organization with 25 employees serving three counties (Harvey, Marion and McPherson). She also helps mentor and coach staff members helping provide the ever-growing list of services offered by the shelter..
Enhancing services focused on victim safety and a sustained effort in that work were part of the criteria tied to the award, but for Jones that work doesn't end at Safehope. She has also volunteered at the state level — serving on the peer accreditation committee for several years and now serving on the KCSDV Board of Directors.
“Jan is a perfect example of why the Juliene Maska Advocate of the Year award was created. She believes in the strength of survivors and does everything in her power to improve their lives and help end domestic and sexual violence,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of KCSDV.
Receiving this honor, Jones noted the true gratification comes from the work she does — work that she said keeps her grounded, knowing there is always more — making sure all victims receive the services they need, whether in Halstead, Hesston or any of the other communities in the tri-county area Safehope covers. Given her own lack of awareness before getting into this work, that is something Jones hopes the award can help shed a light on in the future.
"That recognition — that community engagement, our presence in this community — is crucial for us in order to let people know about our services, and let people that need our services know about our services," Jones said. "What the victims who we work with have to deal with on a day-to-day basis can be a very humbling thing. They're people that I work with, they're people that I go to church with, they're people in my community, they're people that I see at Dillons every day."
Evolution within the shelter is something Jones has been proud to see accomplished, as is the evolution of those she has worked with in the past — going on to be advocates for Prairie View, the Department of Children and Families, etc. In a field where change is a constant, she said the award is confirmation Safehope is doing something right.
Additionally, she noted all that the shelter has accomplished is not the effort of one. The expansion of Safehope has been built on the work of prior directors board members, and community partners.
Collaboration with those partners is a big part of what has helped make Safehope successful, but she noted the mission will always come back to the victims and for her and her staff to remain the best advocates possible for them.
"For us, we wouldn't be where we're at without acknowledging those many victims who have been impacted by sexual assault and domestic violence. Having the opportunity to provide (service) is an honor for us," Jones said. "It's not just a job for us. It's an honor to serve and have an opportunity to make our community safer and to provide services that are needed."