By HEAL Staff Writer Jessica Martinez
Help End Abuse for Life, Inc. (HEAL) was founded in 2005, when Lincoln County had the highest rate of domestic violence per capita in the State, by citizens whose primary mission was to stop domestic violence and provide refuge for women and children affected by abuse. In 2006, the charter board brought in Coleen Widell from Arizona to serve as its first Executive Director of the Nest domestic violence shelter.
After over 10 years of service to the organization, Widell’s resignation is set for October 1st.
“Since the doors of the shelter opened almost 10 years ago, HEAL has provided safety, hope and a new beginning to thousands of survivors and their children,” Widell explained. “HEAL has also been recognized both within and outside of New Mexico for its state-of-the art facility, innovative programming and our uncompromising commitment to survivor safety and privacy for our clients. The New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department has identified HEAL as a model program; and elected leaders recognize HEAL for our work in domestic violence policy.”
Widell attributes the success to the HEAL family and multiple partnerships: the charter board and founders, community leaders who have volunteered their time as board members, funders such as NM Children, Youth and Families Department and the Mortgage Finance Authority, many donors whose gifts range from much-needed financial donations to in-kind and volunteer support, the remarkable HEAL staff, other nonprofit organizations that cross-serve HEAL clients and many legislators, including NM Senator Rod Adair who was the legislative champion of funding for The Nest as well as the sponsor for a multitude of victim-friendly bills and NM Representative Zach Cook, who has continued the legislative support necessary for a model program like HEAL to thrive.
“I am proud to have worked side-by-side with some of the most committed and passionate advocates in New Mexico to build HEAL into the safe haven and advocacy organization envisioned by its founders,” Widell said.
The impact Widell has had on this program will not be soon forgotten.
“We, as citizens of Lincoln County and Mescalero, owe Coleen a huge debt of gratitude,” expressed HEAL Board Vice President Pat Shukis-Fraser. “She has played a leading part in helping us build a strong, vibrant network of community support for survivors of domestic violence. The Nest is second to none in the help it gives to its residents, thanks to that support.”
Though Widell will be dearly missed, the program she helped build will live on and continue to serve survivors of domestic violence.
“Most importantly, the services provided by The Nest won’t stop because our community is fully willing and capable of continuing to support the work of HEAL. We understand our community’s response to domestic violence requires a partnership involving all of us, and we have a strong history in Lincoln County of doing exactly that,” said Shukis-Fraser. “We wish Coleen all that is good as she takes on exciting new challenges.”
Widell’s plans include moving to Mississippi, where she will continue work in government relations and advocacy. She will continue to serve as a board member on the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women in Albuquerque.