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Faces of Hope fundraiser, awards dinner, is next Saturday

Andrea Bloch is the Southwest Crisis Center’s Nobles County 2018 Faces of Hope nominee. Bloch has been a passionate supporter of the SWCC and the survivors it serves. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Next Saturday, Andrea Bloch of rural Fulda will be one of five area residents recognized at the annual Southwest Crisis Center (SWCC) “Faces of Hope” banquet.

This important event is a major fundraiser for the regional non-profit organization that provides support and direct services to primary and secondary survivors of domestic and sexual violence within a five-county area.

“When we work with survivors and their children, there are a lot of different needs, and so many people help us by wrapping themselves around those families,” said Sarah Wahl, SWCC’s executive director.

‘“Faces of Hope’ gives us a chance to recognize people who help.”

Bloch was nominated for the Faces of Hope honor by SWCC assistant director Kari Voss-Drost and Rebecca Whitacre, an R.N. with Southwest Mental Health Center whose job intersected with Bloch’s.

“I worked with Andrea for about two years and I could see how caring she was as a therapist,” observed Whitacre. “She’s very humble and really advocated for her clients.

“Andrea has such dedication and always made sure they had access to the proper resources; she was there for them in a very real way, and it is so amazing to see how she cares about people.”

Added Voss-Drost, “Andrea served as a SWCC board member for a while, but even before that she donated gift certificates for massages to our fundraisers.

“She took it upon herself to attend our 40-hour sexual assault training so she could better understand where our clients were coming from — that is pretty impressive, because that was all volunteer time on her part.”

Whitacre offers further illustration of Bloch’s selflessness when it comes to aiding survivors: For her recent birthday, Bloch encouraged friends and family to donate “Freedom Bags” (a project sponsored by radio station Life 96.5 in Sioux Falls, S.D.) rather than celebrate her.

“They give those bags to women who are being rescued from human trafficking — people who escape with nothing, not even a hairbrush,” explained Whitacre.

“Andrea never expects anything for herself but is always willing to put people in need ahead of herself.”

Bloch, who was raised in the Rushmore area and graduated from Adrian High School, modestly says the impulse to help is something with which she was instilled from the start.

“In my family we learned it was important to help others, so I grew up wanting to work in a helping profession,” she explained. Bloch earned a master’s degree in counseling from Capella University in 2014 and is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

“I try to meet people where they’re at and walk with them through tough things in life,” she added.

Doing so doesn’t always come without a price to the “helpers,” as Bloch has noticed.

When she ran Tranquility Women’s Massage and Wellness in Worthington over five years ago, she spotted SWCC posters around town and decided to find out how she could get involved.

“I donated proceeds to SWCC whenever I could, which they used for things like basic toiletries or gas cards for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Bloch.

“Once I got connected with Sara Wahl and Kari Voss-Drost, I found out more about the services they offered, including how they and their advocates work literally countless hours in the trenches, giving of their hearts and energy to save lives.”

As a SWCC board member, Bloch saw other people working for the cause — lawyers, deputies, corrections officers and business owners — who went above and beyond what their regular duties required.

“It continued to inspire me to see such fierce hearts working together,” said Bloch.

From 2015 through Dec. 31, 2017, Bloch was employed at Southwest Mental Health (SWMH) in Worthington, performing hands-on work with individuals who needed counseling because of trauma they had endured — or were still enduring.

“These stories were full of pain — just full,” related Bloch. “And there were nights when I went home and couldn’t sleep, or cried a bit, because of that pain.”

As a result, Bloch researched vicarious trauma and later completed “My Life, My Choice” training. She served as a facilitator, helping teenage girls who were at-risk for human trafficking.

“I used my anger — at the fact that humans have it in them to use other human beings in such a way — as passion and did the training,” said Bloch.

And yes, Bloch spent an entire week training with the SWCC to become certified as a sexual assault advocate.

“That was very helpful in my work at SWMH, and the two organizations do a great job of working together on giving individuals the help they need and deserve,” she said.

Bloch is also grateful for people like Rep. Rod Hamilton, who attended an event with SWCC survivors and openly displayed a full range of emotions upon hearing their stories.

“To see our representative cry with survivors was quite memorable,” she assured. “It’s something I won’t soon forget.”

Although Bloch began a new position in January as a counselor with Lighting a New Way Counseling Services in Sioux Falls, her passion for the SWCC continues.

“The work I’ve done with SWCC is important to me because it’s what we’re all here for: to help each other,” affirmed Bloch. “I’m blessed to have been asked to help.”

The 2018 Faces of Hope honorees (all of whom will be recognized at Saturday’s banquet) from surrounding counties are:

  • Jess Riemer, Cottonwood County
  • Angie Titus, Jackson County
  • Cassie Loeffler, Pipestone County
  • Meghan Maes, Rock County.

Tickets for the 2018 “Faces of Hope” event, scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Hiawatha Lodge in Pipestone, are available through early next week. Visit mnswcc.org or call 376-4311 for information. Bluestem of Luverne will cater a three-course meal, a live auction will take place, and entertainment by Dueling Duos will round out the evening. Proceeds will benefit SWCC’s programs and its Stepping Stones initiative (toward providing housing for survivors).