Yuma County Attorney Jon R. Smith (left) talks to the local law enforcement agencies who were present at Friday morning’s 2021 kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Yuma Police Department motor officer Jesse Nunez applies his purple “End Domestic Violence” magnetic ribbon to his motorcycle during Friday morning’s 2021 kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the parking lot at Amberly’s Place, 1310 S. 3rd Ave. Law enforcement agencies from throughout the area are participating in the annual event. Domestic violence, according to the Amberly’s Place website, is defined as, “ ... the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically.”
As summer continues, donations continue at a slow but steady rate at Amberly’s Place – but the need is always there.
Tori Bourguignon, Amberly’s executive director, says the nonprofit organization particularly needs snacks, Walmart gift cards and monetary donations for the victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse whom it serves.
Snacks are important, as some cases require forensic interviews and sexual assault exams, which can up to take three to six hours hours, she said. Gift cards to Walmart help provide emergency needs for victims, such as door lock replacements or perishable food items.
While abuse numbers are down overall, Amberly’s Place has seen a significant increase in domestic violence and child abuse cases in the last few months.
Additionally, the child abuse cases are much more severe in terms of the level of injuries.
Amberly’s Place, a family advocacy center, assists abuse victims in Yuma County and part of Imperial County. In May, the agency served 197 primary and secondary abuse victims. In June, the number of primary and secondary victims rose to 243. Secondary victims are those indirectly affected by abuse, perhaps the children or siblings of the victim.
Ten “lucky” people will soon be taking themselves and their families or guests on fun getaways after winning vacation packages in the Week in Paradise fundraiser.
The family advocacy center uses the funds raised from the drawing to help Yuma County abuse victims with emergency needs. This year the agency had hoped to sell 5,000 tickets but fell just short of the goal. It sold 4,900 tickets, raising $49,000.
The drawing was held Friday at Z Fun Factory and streamed live on Facebook. Foothills Rotary Club member Blade Anthony won the Week in Paradise top prize, a seven-day, six-night trip to Oahu, Hawaii, for two with hotel and airfare included, $300 travel money sponsored by Brian Butcher of Edward Jones and hairstyles for two by The Sassy Seale Hair Salon
South County Justice Court Judge Juan Guerrero presents a plaque of appreciation to Diane Umphress for her 20 years of service as the executive director of Amberly’s Place. The agency bid her farewell at a retirement party May 14, where colleagues, supporters and community members feted her. Councilwoman Karen Watts and State Rep. Tim Dunn also thanked Umphress for her many years of service. Umphress officially retired May 15 and handed the torch over to Tori Bourguignon.
The Amberly’s Place Board of Directors has hired Tori Bourguignon as the new executive director to replace Diane Umphress, who will be retiring in May. Umphress has served as the agency’s executive director since its founding in 1999.
Bourguignon was hired after a national search. After interviewing several candidates, the board said it “found the perfect candidate here in our own community.” Bourguignon will start May 1.
Bourguignon is a native of Yuma, graduate of Yuma High and worked as the crisis response coordinator at Amberly’s Place for nine years. Bourguignon left Amberly’s Place six years ago to pursue other interests “and is very excited to be back,” the agency said.
Umphress said she feels confident in turning the keys of the agency over to Bourguignon.
Amberly’s Place has the resources to offer meals to victims of domestic violence through summer’s end, thanks to students at Sunrise Elementary School.
Upon Yuma School District One’s return to in-person instruction in early March, the school’s eight-member student council – comprised of third, fourth and fifth graders – spearheaded a canned food drive for the local family advocacy center because “they wanted to give back.”
“They immediately thought of Amberly’s Place,” said student council advisor Megan Knueppel.
Founding member and longtime Amberly’s Place Executive Director Diane Umphress announced her retirement from the organization that has been a voice and a beacon of hope for abuse victims for more than 20 years. Umphress will retire on May 15.
Amberly’s Place, a family advocacy center, has helped thousands of victims on their journey from victim to survivor to thriver. Umphress has passionately carried the torch for victim rights throughout Yuma County and Arizona for more than two decades.
Her work started with the Yuma County Attorney’s Office as a victim advocate and evolved as a leader among her peers. She was instrumental in planting the seeds that led to the creation of the Yuma County Family Advocacy Coalition which eventually founded Amberly’s Place.
Umphress worked diligently to encourage the creation of best practice protocols for child abuse and sexual assault investigations in Yuma County. Working with local law enforcement agencies and with the training they provided for victim advocates, these protocols led the way for Amberly’s Place to be the first agency to offer on-scene crisis response. This has led to great improvements in how victims of these crimes are treated and assisted.
Amberly’s Place awarded vacation packages to a few fortunate families during a virtual drawing of the Week in Paradise fundraiser held on Friday. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the family advocacy center, which assists abuse victims in Yuma County and part of Imperial County.
Donations to Amberly’s Place have been down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Thrift Shoppe closed for an extended time, which further hurt the emergency fund. The agency hopes to recoup some of the lost donations through the Week in Paradise fundraiser.
The goal was to sell 5,000 tickets at $10 each to raise $50,000. The agency ended up selling 5,500, mostly sold online for the first time. It looks like the agency exceeded the goal.