TOMS RIVER – From raising awareness through programs on sexual assault to recognizing the many contributions of women throughout history, the Ocean County Advisory Commission on the Status of Women turns 40 this year.
"For four decades, the Women's Commission has opened doors for women who look for helpful resources," said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who serves as liaison to the commission. "The Commission has expanded over the years to help women meet the challenges they face personally and professionally."
In recognition of its 40th anniversary, the Advisory Commission is hosting a celebration to honor the past and present commissioners, advocates, and partners who work to advance the status of women and their families in Ocean County.
The Anniversary Celebration will be in lieu of the annual Women's Advocate of the Year celebration, which recognizes the commitment to women's issues through advocacy in the community.
"Recognizing the past and present members is a great way to show our appreciation to all those who have volunteered and make a difference," Haines said.
The 40th anniversary event is scheduled to take place from 8 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 23 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 815 Route 37 West, here. The price, including breakfast is $18.00 per person, and can be paid at the door.
Registration is online at ocdhsregister.com. For program inquiries or if registration assistance is required, contact Marie-Elena Sodeikes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Women's Commission has been a wonderful resource for women in the community over the last 40 years," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "We want to thank the commission members for their ongoing efforts in helping to raise awareness on women's issues and to serve as an invaluable resource for women and their families in Ocean County."
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders created the Ocean County Advisory Commission on the Status of Women in October 1977 under the leadership of the first woman Freeholder, Hazel F. Gluck.
Gluck, a Lakewood resident, was known for immersing herself in voluntary civic work. In 1978, she was selected to be the Director of the Freeholder Board by her freeholder colleagues.
The establishment of the commission, made up of 15 members, and subsequently expanded to 19 members, would act as a liaison providing a bridge to the Freeholders.
"I want to thank the staff at the Department of Human Services for its dedication to this commission by providing events and information that successfully highlight women in our community," said Haines, who also serves as liaison to Human Services and is the second woman to serve as a Freeholder in Ocean County. "From recognizing women in history to education on self-defense and protection, the programs offered by the Women's Commission provide learning experiences and beneficial opportunities."
Representing the diverse roles that women assume in our society, the Women's Commission is dedicated to analyzing the needs, concerns, problems and interests as well as identifying services and resources for women in Ocean County.
The Women's Commission works closely with several organizations including The Children's Home Society of NJ – CUNA, Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, the Ocean County Commission on Child Safety and Awareness, the Displaced Homemakers Program of Ocean County, Providence House Domestic Violence Services, the Ocean County Violence Prevention Project and the HealthEASE Wellness Coalition.
"Working in partnership with these organizations provides many benefits to the women of Ocean County through outreach programs," Haines said. "They allow us to expand the work of the commission by providing a network of support to women and their families in Ocean County."
As part of their mission, the Women's Commission provides a number of education programs, raising awareness on a host of issues throughout the year.
For instance, during the month of March, the Women's Commission along with the Ocean County Library and the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore coordinate to celebrate Women's History Month. A creative art contest honoring "Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business" was open to Ocean County students, grades one through eight earlier this year. The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Women's Commission honored 1,021 entries, 24 schools that participated and 12 contest winners at an awards ceremony at the Ocean County Library.
For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Women's Commission collaborated with the Ocean County Health Department, the Long Beach Island Health Department, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and St. Francis Counseling Service's Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention program to host a community awareness seminar entitled "Sexual Assault: Engaging New Voices," in April. The free program, hosted by the Ocean County Library, engaged participants in self-defense techniques to prevent assault while sharing realities specific to the prevalence and impact sexual assault has on individuals, resources and the community.
In addition, the Women's Commission also celebrates National Women's Health Week in May by partnering with local health care providers to help bring various health focused seminars, screenings and activities to women of Ocean County. And Women's Health Month is recognized in October with a host of activities throughout the County.
"The Commission is here to help women," Haines said. "The role of women, whether in the workforce or the home has changed dramatically over the years. It's important we help women meet these new challenges.