Valencia Shelter Services welcomes new director

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Alexandria V. Taylor is a woman of energy and excitement, thrilled that she once again has the opportunity to serve.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Alexandria V. Taylor is the new executive director for Valencia Shelter Services, the local nonprofit that offers shelter, counseling and programs for victims of domestic violence.

In her office are two message boards covered in pink and green fabric. And the words emblazoned on them — “dream” and “wish it” — seem to capture her goals for Valencia Shelter Services.

As the new executive director of VSS, Taylor has sat behind her large desk for a month now. A native of Alamogordo, Taylor says taking the position has been coming full circle for her.

While a student at the University of Delaware, where she earned a bachelor’s degrees in sociology and criminal justice, Taylor started working with a domestic violence program in rural Maryland.

“That’s how I learned about domestic violence,” Taylor said.

During her time with the program, she served as an advocate, working directly with women and families in the shelter.

Taylor moved to Baltimore to attend the University of Baltimore, where she earned her master’s in public administration, with a concentration in nonprofit management.

She again found herself involved with a program that helped a sexual assault program with a domestic violence component.

“That’s where I got a lot of experience and learned about the connection between sexual assault and domestic violence,” Taylor said.

Between the two opportunities, Taylor experienced both rural and urban programs to combat domestic violence.

“In the rural area, I learned the undisclosed location of the shelter was only as secret as the last person who stayed there, and that everybody knows everybody,” Taylor said. “In Baltimore, I learned a lot about building coalitions and SARTs.”

Starting a SART, a Sexual Assault Response Team, is actually one of Taylor’s goals for Valencia County.

“They are all about building a system that is educated and knowledgeable about the dynamics of sexual assault and domestic violence,” she said.

To establish such a team, Taylor has started working with law enforcement, the judicial system and the medical community.

“The members have to know how to respond to and engage people,” she said.

As she takes the helm of VSS, Taylor wants to see the entity do more education and outreach, informing the community about what it offers and in some cases, alerting people to its existence.

“I have been speaking with different groups, and it’s surprising how many just don’t know we’re here,” she said. “One of our goals is to create a safe place where people can come to ask questions, if they are concerned about something. We don’t want to serve just in the moment of crisis.

“Obviously, our end goal is to eliminate domestic violence. To build a community where it is just unacceptable.”

When Taylor moved back to New Mexico in 2009, she started a fund development consulting firm.

“The nonprofit sector in Maryland and D.C. are so robust, I wanted to help nonprofits here do the same thing,” she said.

When she was working in Baltimore, Taylor said she was pulled more and more into the fundraising side of things. It was something she enjoyed, but there seemed to be something missing.

“They were able to raise the money and then go do the good thing, but I wasn’t involved. I went on to the next project,” Taylor said. “When I saw the job opening here, I knew it was an opportunity to come back to the advocacy where I started. I missed being an advocate and serving.”

After taking the position with VSS, Taylor said she quickly learned what an amazing staff the organization has.

“They are committed, passionate and devoted to serving our clients,” she said. “They aren’t here just for the job. They are here to do good work.”

Taylor said the organization will also be focusing on how it operates and fundraises. The funding it gets from the state is critical to its operations, but it only gets a set number of dollars.

“If we use it six or eight months into the year, we still get the same amount,” she said. “And our needs are still there. In the 30 days I’ve been here, we haven’t had an empty bed in the shelter.”

And Taylor said VSS staff is listening to its clients to find out what programs they need. She said they are on the road to reestablishing the survivor counseling and groups. Taylor said the organization is also working on being able to offer individual counseling that can be paid for by either private insurance, or Medicaid or Medicare.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Taylor says the activities by VSS will be “small, but mighty. I just didn’t feel we could do a lot of things well, so we decided to concentrate on the candlelight vigil and Cuts From the Heart.”

The Second Annual Cuts From the Heart, sponsored by Inner Beauty Hair Studio and Spa to benefit VSS, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, at 1160 Bosque Farms Blvd., Ste. J, in Bosque Farms.

“They have been an amazing supporter of the shelter,” Taylor said.

The candlelight vigil will be at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, at the VSS office on Luna Avenue in Los Lunas.

“The community has been so supportive for the last 23 years,” Taylor said. “We look forward to serving, engaging and working in and with the community.”

Taylor said she is excited to come to work every day. But in the end, she is hoping one day she won’t have to.

“A woman in one of four households will experience domestic violence in her lifetime,” she said. “Look around you. It could be the woman sitting next to you in church or next to you in line. It could be you.

“We want to create a system where this is not allowed to happen, or when it does, people are brought to justice. We want to create a community where domestic violence has no place — where no one will tolerate it.”

The VSS offices can be contacted by calling 565-3100 and the 24-hour hotline is 864-1383. The offices are located at 303 Luna Ave., in Los Lunas.

The shelter also has information about it’s programs and the ways the community can help at www.valenciashelterservices.org, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter @ValenciaShelter.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.