“Through Hands Across the Bay, we help families who are in crisis through no fault of their own.”
Those are the words of Melissa Dohme Hill, director of family services at Julie Weintraub’s Hands Across the Bay, talking to dRTB publisher Tom duPont about her organization’s important work.
“We help survivors rebuild their lives.”
Hill is the leader of Hands Across the Bay’s domestic violence division. As she explains in the interview, the organization doesn’t serve as a shelter, but rather as “the next step” — helping clients through the transformation “from victim to survivor to ‘sur-thriver,’ is what we like to say.”
“We’re a one-stop shop, all right out of Gold & Diamond Source.”
Hands Across the Bay was founded in 2009 by Steve and Julie Weintraub of Gold & Diamond Source. “They cover our office space, our salaries, our supplies,” says Hill. “We even use a portion of their warehouse to create a donation center where families can come shopping for free.”
“Tampa Bay’s Dancing with the Stars has funded Hands Across the Bay for 10 years.”
“We are privately funded right here,” says Hill. “We raise all our money through events.” The Dancing with the Stars event is a gala fundraiser that attracts as many as 600 guests who gather to cheer on local celebrities as they go through their ballroom dance steps with professional partners in front of a panel of judges. Tom duPont and Melissa Dohme Hill have both competed, Hill under particularly unusual circumstances. As Hill, a survivor of domestic violence herself, explains in the interview:
“Just before Dancing with the Stars, my abuser was sentenced to life in prison.”
She shares her harrowing story of being the victim of attempted murder by a former high school boyfriend when she was 19. She also mentions this sobering statistic about dating violence among teens:
“Right now one in three teenagers are in some form of an abusive relationship.”
She talks about the education and outreach programs to young people to prevent this cycle of violence. She shares success stories, too, including Hands Across the Bay’s yellow-shirted Kindness Warrior volunteers — in many instances survivors of domestic violence themselves.
For more info on donating or volunteering, go to handsacrossthebay.org.