Citizens Against Spouse Abuse will soon be under new direction after all but one of its board members has stepped down.
CASA hopes to reopen doors for domestic violence victims in the coming weeks, though a State Law Enforcement Division investigation of possibly mismanaged grant monies is ongoing.
Erin Wilde, who has been on the board of directors at CASA for a few months, said she’s the lone remaining board member and is taking charge of CASA’s restart.
“Everybody is leaving and everything is being handed over to me,” she said.
Sissy Rutherford, current chair of the board of directors, said Monday that a new board was in the works, but she did not know when the change would occur. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Wilde said she knows it will be a tough job to restore trust in the organization following the accusations of misused funds, but the need to help women is what really matters.
“The allegations are bad and if they’re true it’s heartbreaking and sad,” she said. “I was shocked with what the investigation is over. I had absolutely no clue and I hope there’s no wrongdoing. From what I know, there isn’t. But, I understand people looking in [on the situation] might not want to help.”
CASA closed shelters in both Georgetown and Myrtle Beach this week when funding was frozen following SLED’s investigation into inconsistencies in the management of a $32,000 federal grant for the purchase of two vans. The vans were meant to transport victims.
Wilde knows how important the shelters are and said she’s not likely to sleep until the doors reopen.
“I’m a survivor of domestic violence. That’s why I serve on the board,” she said.
Wilde said she used a shelter after she fled from her abusive husband seven years ago.
“I went to a women’s shelter back home and they helped me immensely,” Wilde said. “I left everything. I left the state. I started over with a suitcase and my three kids. It’s a life and death situation.”
She’s looking for people who “have a heart to help” on the new board. Professionals like lawyers and accountants would be helpful, but she’s not looking for specific candidates.
Getting the doors open will require a return of funding. Wilde is planning fundraisers and said she hopes the organization can begin applying for grants again in the next week.
Wilde said she understands people might not support CASA in light of the investigations, but is already pushing forward.
“I hope [SLED] gets to the bottom of [the allegations],” she said. “But at the same time, there’s no shelter and the number of victims is overwhelming. I can totally understand that people will be wary, but all that I want to do is get the doors open again. As leery as people may be when it comes down to it, there’s women and children on the streets fearing for their lives. That’s how I ask people to look at it.”
Domestic violence is historically an issue in South Carolina, which ranks No. 7 in the nation for the number of women killed by men. The state has been in the top 10 since data on domestic abuse was first collected and has been as high as No. 1.
In Horry County domestic incidents are 7 percent of all calls for service with 9,036 reported in 2011. So far in 2012, Horry County police have been called to 3,970 incidents as of Tuesday. Myrtle Beach police investigated 442 incidents in 2011 and 148 so far this year. North Myrtle Beach had 140 domestic violence incidents in 2011 with 50 as of Monday in 2012.
Anyone interested in serving on the new board of directors at CASA can contact Erin Wilde at 446-1979.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.