Twin City Gala to Aid Substance-abuse, Domestic Violence Programs
By Peter Jasinski
LEOMINSTER -- In the 23 years she’s worked at the Leominster Police Department, Kelly Vallee jokes she’s never once been able to go to a Policeman’s Ball.
“They used to do it many years ago,” said Vallee, the department’s administrative assistant. “There was also a Fireman’s Ball and, ironically, my husband is also a fireman so I’ve missed out on that too.”
This month’s Twin City Gala is intended to be something like those once annual celebrations in which members of the department and the community at-large were able to spend a night eating, drinking, and dancing in their Sunday best.
However, Sept. 28′s festivities were not born out of a desire to bring back a forgotten tradition but instead to fund a need that has grown in the department for the last year.
Two new positions were created in the department last year: a substance abuse outreach advocate and a domestic violence victim liaison. Both are responsible for finding services to treat local residents affected by addiction or domestic violence and have been successful in placing people at treatment centers and shelters.
The main issue is just getting them there.
“If you get a bed, you’ve got to move quickly. They can’t sit around for an hour or two,” said Jennessa McQuade, who works with those who contact the department looking for substance abuse recovery services.
“If they get unreliable transportation, it could lead to them calling their dealer and getting high on the way there,” she said.
The city has been able to transport people with department cruisers or with taxi cab vouchers provided by the mayor’s office, but scheduling these trips is further complicated by the destinations frequently being scattered throughout the state.
“It could be anywhere in Massachusetts,” said Lesly Borges, the department’s domestic violence liaison. “The last victim I had was a woman with three children. We had to transport them all the way to a shelter on Cape Cod.”
Vallee said the department hopes the Twin City Gala will be the start of a new fund within the department to pay for these trips.
“Our plan is to reach out to MART and the local cab companies to get quotes and see who is willing to give it to us at a discounted rate,” she said.
Depending on its success, Vallee said the gala could be become an annual event, but she said other fundraisers will likely be held throughout the year to further bolster the department’s transportation fund.
Tickets for the gala cost $50 a piece and are currently on sale at the Leominster Police Department. They will also be available at the door during the gala.
Sponsored donations will be accepted until Sept. 21, however general donations will be accepted during the gala and through the department.
The event does require formal attire and will feature dinner, dancing, and silent auctions.
The evening will also feature an awards ceremony for local officers that have been especially supportive of victims of substance abuse and domestic violence.
“We’re going to give the awards for the officers who always go the extra mile for our victims,” said Borges. “Sometimes a victim meets with me and they say they want to thank the officer that helped them. It’s good to reward those officers.”
The Twin City Gala is open to the public and will be held from 6:30 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 28 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Leominster.
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