Bensons to be honored as Faces of Hope
BIGELOW — David and Sally Anne Benson of rural Bigelow will be honored as the Faces of Hope during a Southwest Crisis Center banquet April 5 at BenLee’s Cafe in downtown Worthington.
The event will recognize the Bensons for their work to support victims of domestic and sexual violence as well as serve as a fundraiser for the Southwest Crisis Center, which is celebrating its 30th year of helping victims. The evening begins with a social hour at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner, awards presentation and dance. Tickets may be purchased in advance by contacting the Southwest Crisis Center in Worthington at 376-4311 or visiting www.mnswcc.org.
David Benson was first introduced to the work of the Southwest Crisis Center about a decade ago, when he attended the agency’s annual meeting in Worthington.
“That’s when they lit a candle for every person — women and children — that had been killed or died in Minnesota from violence,” he explained. “That’s when it really brought it home to me.”
A year later, when the SWCC put out a call for board members, he applied. The application led to “five or six years” of service on the board.
“I became aware, then, that Nobles County was the only county not contributing financially,” David said. The SWCC serves a five-county area, including Nobles, Rock, Pipestone, Cottonwood and Jackson.
At the time, David was also serving as a Nobles County vommissioner, and garnered support from the board to make an annual contribution to SWCC — a decision that continues to be honored by current board members.
“I felt really good about that,” he said.
Now that David is semi-retired — he still farms and does mechanic work — and Sally Anne has retired from her 30-year career teaching Montessori pre-school, they have volunteered to help with SWCC events such as the Clothesline Project conducted in Worthington last October.
The event, which coincided with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, included a display of T-shirts identifying each of the victims of domestic or sexual violence.
“It’s very sobering,” Sally Anne said of the exhibit. “The impact was very strong about this visual representation of violence.”
“I was taken by the tiny T-shirts of children,” David added.
The T-shirts included the name and biography of each victim, and was affecting for people like the Bensons, who hadn’t previously been exposed to the victims of violence.
“Somehow you just hope that we, as a society, realize this is just unacceptable,” David said. “You shouldn’t fear for your life, your safety or your children.”
“I feel very fortunate for having grown up in a happy childhood and adulthood, with plenty of food, a warm house, good work, friends and family to love and who love me,” added Sally Anne. “Realizing that children, women and men are abused is horrendous to me. I have never experienced violence, but in my own small way I wish to help those who have been victimized.”
Women are the victims in a majority of domestic and sexual violence cases, and Sally Anne said they often have a difficult time escaping the situation.
“That’s where the crisis center is phenomenally helpful,” she said. “They provide the tools and the information to help people.”
The SWCC is the initial contact for victims in crisis. It provides a 24-hour hotline for victims and serves individuals through referrals from law enforcement, medical personnel, court administration and agencies such as churches, health and human service groups and mental health centers.
Domestic violence impacts people at all age levels, races and socioeconomic statuses.
“It’s sad that it’s so universal,” David said. “All of us need to realize that this is just not acceptable.”
“In my work for over 30 years with young children, the idea of a child being hurt or abused just makes me feel so sad,” added Sally Anne. She commended the SWCC for its efforts.
“I want to compliment all of the Southwest Crisis Center staff and board members for their hard work providing hope, help and support to those in Nobles County and beyond,” she said.
Both said the Faces of Hope honor was “a complete surprise.”
“There are many other people that would deserve it,” said David.
Southwest Crisis Center Director Sara Wahl said the Bensons were selected through a nomination process.
“They have always supported the crisis center — have always been very interested in what we’re doing,” she said.”They look for ways to help and be involved, even though I know they are very busy.”
Faces of Hope honorees were selected from each of the five counties served by the Southwest Crisis Center. Other individuals being recognized in 2014 include Donna Marcy from Cottonwood County, Barb Spaeth from Jackson County, Luann Bosma from Pipestone County, and Connie Wieneke from Rock County.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.