- Becca W.
Meet our Newest Board Members
We are pleased to introduce our two newest board members, Shelley Weier and Shelley Strohmaier. They have both been connected to Sojourner for many years in a variety of ways and we are thrilled to have their insight and leadership on the board.
"Many years ago, I was doing work that was no longer feeding my soul. I got a kick out of it but I thought maybe if I volunteered somewhere, it would fill the ‘gap’ that was missing. I found Sojourner just by a Google search! I started volunteering answering the crisis line and the path became clear. I had my own marketing research consulting firm at the time and I just shut it down and went back to school for my Masters in Psychology. Eventually, I returned to Sojourner and worked as a therapist, helping victims of abuse overcome trauma, build resilience, and regain a positive vision for their future. I retired from my therapy work in 2020 but I continue to be passionate about Sojourner’s mission and want to continue to support the organization in a board member capacity. Sojourner does outstanding work in helping victims of abuse break free from the cycle of violence. Our comprehensive approach of providing shelter, legal support and counseling makes Sojourner a true beacon of hope for our clients."
"As I reflect on how honored and excited I am to be invited to serve on Sojourner’s board, I’m also struck by the serendipity that introduced me to this amazing organization. I first heard about Sojourner when we bought our house in 2012. Although it had changed hands twice, we learned our new home had previously been the site of Sojourner Shelter. In small ways, we felt their presence: old wiring that had been used for offices, the donated fancy playground in the back yard that our kids were now enjoying and the memories our neighbors shared. In 2016, as my husband and I were processing the election, we knew we had to do something different. We knew we needed to be more deliberate about teaching our 3 boys their responsibility to their community and to gently introduce to them that the safety and security they enjoyed, were privileges. I immediately thought of Sojourner and reached out to Laura Sisterman, who is now Sojourner’s newly appointed Executive Director. At the time my kids were 6 months old, 4 years old, and 6 years old. As a family, we would ask Laura what Sojourner needed and every month the boys would go with us to Costco, load our car, and then carry in our donations. Our kids would say, “thank you for helping people be safe.” Every month. Every time. Sometimes they had questions that day, more often they would process and ask us things later. In one particularly powerful moment, after we had dropped off diapers, my oldest looked at me and said, “they have babies here?” This question started a conversation that continues to this day.
Every month Laura and I would chat about our families, about Sojourner, and about the world. Occasionally Helen Chargo, the newly retired Executive Director and tireless champion of victims of domestic violence, would stop by to say hello to all of us. Through those conversations and my periodic research online, I learned the breadth and depth of their mission and their work. Most people assume, myself included, that their shelter comprised most of what they do. I learned about their legal and social advocacy work for victims, both women and men, outside of their shelter. I learned about their outreach and education in schools. I learned about their robust volunteer program and 24-hour crisis line. In 2021, while navigating COVID restrictions, they provided over 14,000 of hours of legal advocacy work, completed 156 outreach events and presentations, and fielded over 2700 crisis calls. Sojourner is a small organization that tackles domestic violence with herculean resolve and an impressive breadth of impact.
After a year or so, Laura and Helen offered the boys a tour of the residence. My boys always had so many questions Helen and Laura knew words couldn’t alone answer. It was a quick 15-minute look at the shelter but what struck the boys most was that it wasn’t special. It was just a regular space with regular parts. It had a kitchen, couches, toys they recognized, the same cleaning stuff we had at home, just regular stuff. That was eye-opening for them. I knew this but it was a good reminder to see that realization unfold through their eyes. Domestic violence affects regular people.
Our relationship with Sojourner Project continued in this capacity for several years. In 2019, Helen invited me to participate in planning and organizing the 40th-anniversary event, which introduced me to even more amazing people integral to Sojourner’s current operations and to its history. Shortly thereafter Helen asked if I would be interested in serving on Sojourner’s Board of Directors. In addition to being a mom & a wife, I am a physician. As a Hospitalist, an Internist by training, I only care for patients in the hospital, which more times than not involves a medical crisis. For the past twenty years, I’ve helped patients and families navigate their acute illnesses. Diagnose and treat what can be treated and then sit down and brainstorm what I call “the grey zone”. Not everything follows the textbook and quite often teasing out the difference between what we could do and what we should do is challenging. I often tell patients and families, 'when common sense and kindness is your guide, the path forward can become clear.' Helen thought these experiences and my commitment to Sojourner Project would be helpful to the board. Supporting Sojourner Project has been a priority for my family and this opportunity would allow me to continue that work. Excited and extremely humbled by her request, I applied and was thrilled to be offered a position. Even in the short time I’ve been on the board, I have learned so much and continue to be amazed by the compassion, tenacity, and skill at the Sojourner Project. And to think, my relationship with them all started because we happened to buy a home that came with its own mission to “helping keep people safe” built into its very walls and foundation."
*If you received our printed newsletter, you may notice that Shelley Weier was mistakenly described as an ER physician. Dr. Weier is a Hospitalist and Internist by training. Please also note the spelling correction to her last name.