Wesson Women’s Nurses Remember Beloved Staff Member with Giving Tree

SPRINGFIELD — It was back in 2009 when staff on Wesson 2 at Baystate Medical Center lost a beloved nurse as a result of domestic violence.

“We just adored her. She worked at Baystate Medical Center for quite a few years. And the tragedy prompted us to do something,” said Grace Lavoie. “Initially, Wesson 2 collected money and donated annually to the YWCA in her honor. We did this for a couple of years, and then decided we wanted to do more. Three of us, Anne Cournoyer, Maureen Fitzgerald, and I, thought of doing a giving tree at Christmas time to help the women and children affected by domestic violence.”

Among the gifts donated over the years have been pots and pans, linens, comforters, dishes, glasses, all types of clothing (“because these women are starting their lives over again,” said Lavoie) and much more. Also, all kinds of toys have been purchased and donated for kids, especially popular items such as Dora the Explorer and everything from the popular Disney movie Frozen. “Moms also like gift cards which they can then use to buy their own kids something,” said Lavoie.

She added, “we’re just so grateful for the amazing response we’ve received from so many donors over the years, who have so generously contributed to our efforts to brighten the holidays for the women and children on our list,” she added.

Today, their fund-raising effort for battered women and their children has grown to include staff from the Women’s Evaluation and Treatment Unit (WETU) and the Labor/Delivery/Recovery/Postpartum (LDRP) Unit, and involves a giving tree which travels back and forth among the three units.

“Our patient populations are all women, and we have heard some terrible stories from some of them about the suffering they have endured over the years from their partners. We knew we had to give back to the community in which domestic violence is such a big problem,” said Lavoie.

As Christmas approaches, Lavoie calls Linda Larese, executive assistant at the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, who gives her a list of women and children at the YWCA.

“We ask Linda to send us the first and second wishes of the moms and children at the shelter. Then a group of us from Wesson 2, LDRP, and WETU get together and make handmade ornaments to hang on the tree. This year we made 110 ornaments, each with their first name, age, size, and their first and second wishes on them.

“In addition to our own staff members, employees — social workers, doctors, and others — from other areas of the hospital often pick an ornament off the tree and generously donate the gift listed on the ornament,” she continued. “We had one doctor, a pediatrician, who said the tree meant a lot to her because her sister died as a result of domestic violence. We usually do pretty well in granting all their wishes, and the gifts are all delivered to the shelter just a few days before Christmas.”

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, or other factors. And both women and men can be victims of domestic violence. Some statistics:

• Every nine seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten.

• On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. During the year, this equates to more than 20 million women and men.

• One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

• On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic-violence hotlines nationwide.

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