By Patrick McArdle
Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter is telling a new story with the organization’s updated name, unveiled at an event last week at College of St. Joseph.
The NewStory Center, which uses the slogan “Turning the Page on Violence,” is a secret that has been kept since the name was chosen in March, according to Avaloy Lanning, the executive director.
“So, as we move forward to our next chapter as an organization, we recognize that for too many people and for too long a time, someone else has been writing their story, controlling their narrative. Not any longer. It’s time for us, for our community, for survivors, to take control of their narrative and write a new story,” she said.
Lanning, standing on the stage at the Tuttle Theater, advanced the slide show to reveal the “NewStory Center” name, which was greeted by cheers and applause from a group of Rutland notables including Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen and Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy.
NewStory Center services include an emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, support groups and advocacy services.
Before the ceremony, while still keeping the new name secret, Lanning discussed the importance of the new name.
“We knew that this work had evolved beyond what our name described. The anti-violence and domestic and sexual violence work in particular had evolved this narrative that supposes that only women are victims,” she said.
Lanning said staff members at what had been the Women’s Network & Shelter had encountered men who didn’t think they could find services in Rutland because the only organization around had “women” in the name.
Members of the organization also had concerns about whether the name would be welcoming to members of the LGBT community.
“When they saw our name they thought we were serving only straight-identified women. … People were just left out of that name,” she said.
Lanning said people in the organization also wanted a name that didn’t imply the only service they supplied was shelter.
Donna GoodHale, chairwoman of NewStory’s board of directors, said the organization was having an “identity crisis.”
“We felt that our name didn’t really reflect our purpose,” she said.
GoodHale said NewStory wasn’t just a new name, but also reflected the results of a “hard, long” process to decide their true mission.
About 200 people attended the event, which included a “masquerade” and a comedic hypnotism performance. Lanning said that was intentional.
“This was also a lot of work. We went through a strategic planning process, new mission, vision, goals … All of those things. That was a long process. Then we knew we wanted a new name. … We’ve been working on this for over a year and keeping it a secret for several months now. We wanted a party to celebrate that work,” she said.
Lanning said she wanted the people who get services at NewStory and who work there to see that “it’s OK to laugh and have fun” in addition to the serious work they do.
GoodHale said she was pleased to see so many people wanted to be part of the event.
“I think of Rutland as a little city with a big heart,” she said.
Kennedy said she thought the name change was “fantastic.”
“I love what it means. We work with victims day in and day out, and hopefully, through our court system, they start to get their voice. I think it’s a great name that celebrates them taking control of their life and writing their own new chapter,” she said.
NewStory is among the resources the victims’ advocates in Kennedy’s office can offer to people who have been the victims of violent crime.
Before revealing the new name, Lanning explained the organization started in 1979 as the Rutland County Battered Women’s Shelter, which was built on land that was acquired from the sisters of St. Joseph. The site came to be known as “Herstory House.”