by Anna Denson
Article also appears in The Mountaineer.
Check It Out: REACH of Haywood Tackles the Information Age with New Website
Recently, it’s been a busy time for REACH of Haywood County. The organization, which is a United Way agency, has been growing by leaps and bounds, constantly pushing to provide more and better assistance to survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and elder abuse. In this digital age, one significant element of that assistance is the ready availability of information and online services – something that REACH had been struggling with. Julia Freeman, the organization’s Executive Director, summed up the problem. “It started with feedback from the community. People were trying to access the website, and it would be down, or they couldn’t find the information they were looking for. They didn’t know who we were as an organization, or what we were trying to do. We needed to improve our outreach and victim services, and to do that, we needed a better presence online.” With this goal in mind, REACH undertook a drastic website renovation, recreating the site as a clean, user-friendly resource for both clients and community supporters.
First and foremost, the new site at http://www.reachofhaywood.org/ is now a way to make REACH accessible to those in need. Not only a summary of the organization’s history and mission, the new site also includes information about REACH’s shelter program, select contact information, and the aid available for clients – such as legal advocacy, emergency shelter, counseling, housing assistance, and the 24-hour crisis helpline. The site also provides informational overviews of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and elder abuse, helping both victims and the public understand more generally the issues that REACH strives to combat.
As victims of abuse are often plagued by questions and doubts, REACH hopes the revamped website will provide them with tools to assess their situation. As part of the site’s new Blog feature, REACH is including articles targeted at some of these common questions and concerns. From creating a safety plan, to signs of an abusive personality, to getting a protective order, REACH wants to give clients and potential clients the information they need to keep themselves safe. “We’re creating an educational site that can be accessed by victims anywhere in the world,” says Executive Director Julia Freeman. “Our main prerogative may be with the community here in Haywood County, but we want to use this opportunity to provide information and resources to anyone in need.”
Of course, there are also portions of the site geared more towards the immediate community. For local volunteers and supporters, the site includes details about REACH’s upcoming events and activities, and allows guests to make donations or purchase event tickets online via Paypal. Users can also peruse the Blog or News sections to find out about past REACH events, through photos and news articles archived from Waynesville publication The Mountaineer.
For those interested in aiding REACH through donations or volunteer work, they can visit the new site to learn more about Within Reach — the organization’s resale store in Hazelwood — or the Friends of REACH auxiliary, which supports events and fundraising for REACH’s services. Those wishing to donate home goods directly to the REACH shelter program can find a list of acceptable donation items at the bottom of the new site’s homepage.
So far, public response to the new website has been overwhelmingly supportive. “It is easy to navigate and is not weighed down with so much verbiage that a person can’t get a quick answer to a question,” says recent Waynesville transplant Norma Price. “You have to think that sometimes a person who needs these services might not have a long time be on a computer, so they need info fast – this is fast and very easy to follow and helpful. Also, if a social worker is looking for a resource for someone, it is easy to find what all REACH does help with, again, without having to dig through too much material.”
Reach continues to welcome feedback, to best tailor the site to the community’s needs. Have a thought or suggestion? Join the conversation on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/pages/REACH-of-Haywood-County/85722518522.