A student’s story

YWCA — Wise Options

Members of the community always are finding ways to give back, whether that be the United States Civil Air Patrol or Students Against Destructive Decisions, but one community effort has gone above and beyond in recent years: the YWCA — Wise Options. This program designed to produce a safe haven for the citizens of Lycoming County acts as a support system for those in need. Wise Options works year round to re-empower individuals who have suffered from violent crimes such as domestic violence or sexual assault. It is in this area that this organization and its members have truly made a difference.

In October 2017 alone, the YWCA — Wise Options organized numerous events, including a promotional stand at First Friday, a Battle of the Bands support event, a Remembrance Vigil at the Lycoming County Courthouse, an interactive roundtable discussion on responding to, intervening and preventing domestic violence. In addition to all this, Wise Options also participated in the Mummers Parade held in South Williamsport. Due to their diligent work to aid members of the community, the Lycoming County Commissioners once again named October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month within our county in order to help bring awareness to the fight.

Within our community, one of the biggest social advocates for this effort has been the honorable Judge Joy McCoy. Before serving as one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, Judge McCoy practiced law as an associate at McNerney, Page, Vanderlin & Hall. It was during this time that Judge McCoy developed her passion to fight for the prevention of domestic violence. Upon becoming a Judge in 2010, Judge McCoy also became the chair of the Lycoming County Domestic Violence Task Force with its mission of, “strengthening community collaboration and public education in order to reduce, and ultimately prevent, domestic violence while assuring victims of domestic violence have access to quality services and supports.”

From here, Judge McCoy’s dedication to the cause only grew as she began to take even more steps to counteract and prevent domestic violence. “I have worked very closely with our victim advocacy center (Wise Options) as well as law enforcement to address domestic violence issues,” said Judge McCoy.

In addition to working with local entities, Judge McCoy took steps to establish more, such as the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which works to decrease lethality risk in highly dangerous domestic violence cases by connecting victims with local aid services. “I was part of a larger group of individuals who helped to bring LAP to Lycoming County. It started first as a pilot program with the Old Lycoming PD and is now used by every Municipal Police Department in the County,” said Judge McCoy.

Yet, Judge McCoy didn’t stop here and in 2015 went on to establish the Lycoming County Fatality Review Team which analyzes the cases for domestic violence-related fatalities in an effort to avoid future casualties. “As a team, we look at prior domestic violence homicides that have occurred in Lycoming County. We look at the relationship of the parties and the circumstances throughout their lives that led to the homicide,” said Judge McCoy.

Recently, Judge McCoy and the YWCA has been taking steps to become involved with another Lycoming County program, the Youth Development Task Force (YDTF). Rather than working with victims, the Youth Development Task Force is composed of student representatives from each of the nine school districts in Lycoming County which work to eliminate problems at their very roots by educating students on drugs and alcohol and mental illnesses such as depression. Judge McCoy and YWCA representatives have been attending the YDTF meetings and are finding ways to connect with the youth, such as the community dance the YWCA will be hosting on February 16.

All of these organizations and social efforts wouldn’t be possible without the individuals who put in the hours upon hours of work to fight for change. Many of these individuals are volunteers and aren’t compensated for their time in any way other than the smiles on the faces of the people they help. If you or someone you know may be interested in assisting in the YWCA’s mission, they can be contacted at 570-322-4637.

Thompson is a senior at Hughesville High School. Her column is published on the second and fourth Mondays of each month in the Education section. She can be reached at education@­sungazette.com.