State Farm agent is standing up for women
New Jersey business leader gives back
It’s an epidemic and can be found everywhere. Fortunately there are people like Paula Austin who are taking a stand against domestic violence.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. That’s more than 10 million women and men a year. Additionally, one in 15 children is exposed to domestic violence.
One New Jersey organization, Soroptimist International of Cumberland County, Inc. (SICC), created a unique way to raise domestic violence awareness and show it can happen in anyone’s community.
“Two years ago, SICC was given a plot of land in Bridgeton City Park which we transformed into the Soroptimist Peace and Tranquility Garden,” explains State Farm Agent Paula Austin, a Soroptimist member.
“The Garden is a space to remind community members domestic violence is a major problem, and to support victims. SICC members created the Garden. Local high school students help with the upkeep.”
Best for women
Soroptimist translates to “best for women” in Latin. SICC, which is one of more than 30,000 clubs in 130 countries, will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2017. Paula is proud to be a 25 year member, joining just after she became an agent.
“My parents were always involved in community service organizations and politics. They taught me the importance of volunteerism,” says Paula. “I campaigned for JFK when I was just eleven years old.”
"Paula is a valuable member of SICC. She has initiated and participated in several projects which have directly impacted local women and girls, as well as those in other countries,” shared SICC Project Chair Carol Hutton. "She has worked directly on projects focused on domestic violence, women's health issues, and empowering women to provide financial support for their families."
In addition to the Garden, SICC members hold candlelight vigils in remembrance of domestic violence victims and recently added a moving memorial. The memorial features silhouettes of a mother and child, sitting in front of various local businesses throughout the year.
“It serves as a reminder that domestic violence exists in our very own community,” shared Paula.
To further empower women, SICC created Launch for Success. The program provides classes for women entering or re-entering the workplace.
Local professors teach valuable job skills, such as goal setting, resume writing, and interview tips. Many SICC members, like Paula, serve as mentors and share their personal and professional journeys.
“Our mission is to help girls and women improve their lives,” says Paula. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I have and want to help others’ lives go right.”