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In 1987, Congress declared March as Women’s History Month, a time to honor the extraordinary achievements of American women in history and contemporary society. On March 22nd, Vice Mayor Patricia Fairclough took time during the City Council’s Special Presentations to recognize some of the women and organizations that serve and strengthen the Homestead community and its residents in important ways.
“March marks Women’s History Month, and as the only Councilwoman or Vice Mayor in the City of Homestead, it is very fitting that I recognize those women that are making various contributions in the Homestead community,” said Vice Mayor Fairclough. ”These are not elected leaders, but they have elected to lead in our community in various capacities. So here this evening, I have the women — the female faces of SOS, the Junior Women’s Club and M.U.J.E.R,” she added, and invited representatives of each group to join her to talk about their work and how they help members of the community.
Debbie Lyew, SOS program director, said, “SOS (Start Off Smart) is housed within the Homestead Police Department. We provide victim services to the community of Homestead, which covers any form of victimization, concentrating on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and child mistreatment.” SOS’s website says that “Every day, victim advocates meet with people who have been disenfranchised, exploited, used, hurt and abused. With empathy and an array of resources and determination, our advocates give all they can to the families and children they serve.”
Lyew introduced several of the women who work at SOS: Sandi Nanni, Georgette Garrick, Arlen Guillen, Flor Arzuaga, Gudelia Hernandez, and Kathy Adams.
Next, Wendy Hays talked about the Homestead Junior Women’s Club. She explained, “We’ve been in the community for over 40 years,” noting the club is a part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs. “We got our start with the Homestead Soup Kitchen, which we fund annually,” she added.
“We try to help wherever we’re needed,” Hays continued. “Anytime there’s a need in the community, someone finds us and we try to fill it,” mentioning the group is currently accepting scholarship requests from high school students. She also took a moment to introduce fellow club members: Leota Lane, Billie Keller, Kathy Montizaan, Wendy Hays, Dana Garner, Heather Mislow, and Laura Galvan.
Finally, Susan Rivera, the director of M.U.J.E.R. (Mujeres, Unidas, en Justicia, Educacion y Reforma, and Women, United in Justice, Education and Reform), said, “We operate a one-stop domestic violence and sexual assault center. We provide comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse — children, adults, women and men. We’ve been doing it for 20 years. We’re excited about being here and we’re excited about the future of Homestead because we’re seeing more and more support for victims in our community.”
Rivera also took a moment to thank Mayor Porter and Homestead’s Chief of Police for writing letters of support on M.U.J.E.R.’s behalf. “We were able salvage our funding through September and we’re going to keep on fighting [for] it,” she said.
Vice Mayor Fairclough presented each group with a certificate from the City Council thanking them for “their unwavering commitment to serving the women of the City of Homestead.”