Angela Mancuso gets the question a lot.
After continuing to hear stories from victims of domestic violence over the years, doesn't it get depressing?
Sometimes, it can be, she admits.
'I've seen the worst side of humanity,' said Mancuso, executive director of The Women's Center in Waukesha. 'Significant harm is caused to these individuals. It's devastating. I carry that all the time and always think about it.'
But then, Mancuso quickly realizes why she got started in this profession.
'I see the strength and resiliency these people have, and it reminds me why I'm doing it,' she said. 'I gain so much from our clients.'
Mancuso has led The Women's Center at 505 N. East Ave. near Carroll University for the past two years.
But her work in local nonprofits started years ago.
Helping most vulnerable
Growing up in Green Bay, Mancuso said she was always encouraged to volunteer for various causes.
That continued when she went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and started getting active in fundraising. It led to a job in the public relations department at Sojourner Truth House in 2001 before working her way up to associate director and eventually executive director and later co-executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center.
As the top official at the largest domestic violence shelter in Milwaukee — the Sojourner Truth House — as well as a former co-chair of the city of Milwaukee's Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, her dedication to help victims was noticed.
Mancuso was given a Mayoral Proclamation on Sept. 12, 2012, as 'Angela Mancuso Day' for outstanding service to victims of domestic violence.
Coming to Waukesha
Mancuso, however, decided to take on a new challenge at The Women's Center after hearing longtime executive director Marie Kingsbury was retiring in 2013.
'I felt comfortable, and it was a good fit,' Mancuso said. 'It's such a necessary organization.'
Mancuso said she was familiar with The Women's Center and its message from her time at the Sojourner Truth House as the organizations work close together.
It also continued her work in assisting domestic violence victims. The Women's Center, founded in 1977, provides free and comprehensive services to address issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse.
The center's services are extensive, Mancuso said.
They include emergency shelter for abused families, transitional living, counseling, child abuse prevention programming, legal advocacy and employment counseling. They also provide Hispanic outreach, community education programs, information and referral services, as well as a 24-hour hotline at (262) 542-3828.
Violence has no boundaries
In 2014, Mancuso said 12,000 people used The Women's Center's vast range of services, including 300 women and children in its emergency shelter.
'Domestic violence affects all corners of Waukesha County,' Mancuso said. 'It's all over, whether you're in Oconomowoc, Brookfield, Muskego, Waukesha or Mukwonago. It's a common myth when people say it's not in my backyard. Domestic violence has no socio-economic background.
'When you look at crimes and review a criminal's rap sheet, a lot of time they were abused or witnessed abuse, and that leads to more violence.'
Mancuso hopes there comes a time when a facility like The Women's Center isn't needed.
'An organization like ours shouldn't exist because there shouldn't be violence,' she said. 'But we live in a violent society.'
Seeing the impacts of this violence on a daily basis makes Mancuso, a mother of an adult daughter, want to further help society's most vulnerable.
'I wanted to work toward an issue that is the root of what is wrong with society,' Mancuso said. 'I wanted to make a difference.'
How The Women's Center meets the needs of its clients will continue to change, Mancuso said.
'One size doesn't fit all,' said Mancuso, who holds a business administration degree from Mount Mary University. 'We have to be flexible and have our programs evolve.'
She also understands The Women's Center wouldn't exist without the public's support.
The center operates on a $2 million annual budget, with $1.2 million of that coming from donations. The center also receives government funds and money from the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County.
'We really rely on the community, businesses and churches for support throughout the entire county,' Mancuso said.
How to help
·Mail donations or cash gifts can be made to The Women's Center, 505 N. East Ave., Waukesha, WI 53186
Other items the center is in greatest need of:
·Nonperishable food items
·New unused twin size bedding (blankets and sheets)
·New unused pillows and pillow protectors
·Swiffer mop cleaning supplies
·Women's pajamas (all sizes)
·Slippers (all sizes)
·Baby monitors (new and used, in good condition)
·Full wish lists for the agency, clients, food pantry, the shelter and the holiday season is on The Women's Center's website at twcwaukesha.org.