EVANSTON — Local SAFV (Sexual Assault and Family Violence) advocate Jesse Barnes recently received the prestigious PEACE Award from the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (WCADVSA). Barnes was honored as an Outstanding Advocate at the 10th annual Wyoming Conference for Violence Prevention and Response held in Riverton, Wyoming, Sept. 11-13.
The conference honored six Wyoming residents for their work to end violence against women. Those receiving awards included Barnes, who was named as outstanding advocate; Kathy Steward of Big Horn County, also named outstanding advocate; District 8 Wyoming Senator Affie Ellis, honored for leadership in policy; Matt Gray, Professor of Psychology at UW, honored for leadership in advocacy; Libby Thorson of Laramie honored for partners in advocacy; and Jennifer Zenor of Laramie honored for lifetime contribution (given every five years).
The PEACE award stands for “Promoting Excellence in Advocacy for Change and Empowerment,” and it acknowledges the valuable contribution the advocate has made in the effort to end violence against women and empower victims across Wyoming. Accompanying Barnes’ award was a watercolor painting by artist Rita Loyd. The bright colored painting, titled “Celebration,” features women of all colors joining hands to encircle a tree filled with heart-shaped leaves.
Barnes was nominated for the award by Evanston’s Director of SAFV, Angie Fessler, who wrote of Barnes’s work, “Jesse demonstrates excellence and initiative in her service to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, elder abuse, human trafficking and dating violence. She truly goes ‘the extra mile.’ She is a great source of empowerment for our victims as she leads them gently through their journey to becoming survivors.”
Included with the nomination were four letters of support from representatives of other agencies. Comments from all four gave similar compliments to Barnes’ work.
Marsha M. Krotz, vocational rehabilitation counselor, wrote, “Jesse is very innovative in her thinking, and does not give up when faced with challenges. She conveys a very sincere regard for the individuals that she serves and is able to empower them to make a better life for themselves.”
“As a volunteer for the victim/wellness program, Jesse Barnes is dependable, organized and works well with law enforcement. Jesse Barnes is a voice and champion for victims needing vital assistance, and is focused on ensuring victims’ safety and well-being, while also educating victims and the community affected by violence on available resources and programs,” Vanessa Weekly, EPD Victim Coordinator wrote in her recommendation for Barnes.
Trent Toland of Mountain View wrote, “I was thoroughly impressed with the rapport that Jesse was able to build with her client. It was apparent how much trust her client placed in her.”
Katie Hughes, former rural program capacity specialist with WCADVSA, summarized her recommendation by stating that Jesse has the ability to welcome others into this work and by sharing her experience and passion is a great role model.
In an interview, Barnes said, “I was very surprised when I got the call that I was nominated and had won. When I read those letters of recommendation it was very humbling to see myself through other people’s eyes.”
Barnes said she is a single mom with two children who are now grown. Her son is a senior in high school and her daughter is married and has five children.
Barnes said her prior experience was as an AmeriCorp/Vista volunteer for three years from 2006 – 2009 working with teens in the Youth Opportunities Unlimited program. Then she was hired as staff and worked with teens in the Youth Drug Court until 2012. When that closed she moved to Ogden and worked with young people with addiction problems. She was there for more than a year and then decided to return to Evanston, where she started full-time in the office at SAFV in 2014.
Barnes admitted, “I didn’t think I would last with SAFV. It is very stressful and you have to learn to take care of yourself. I go to concerts, I love hard metal music. I get massages, I meditate and walk at the State Park. I’ve recently begun to garden. I spend a lot of time with my little grandkids who are 3 and 5 years old. I also have a very supportive boyfriend.” She added, “This award is an honor but I could not get this by myself. We at SAFV and those at the other agencies, we all know how to work together.”