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Domestic Violence is a silent epidemic affecting the entire gamut of society, at all educational and socio-economic levels, especially in these tough economic times. Being a survivor, I know what its like to live in constant fear of your loved one(s); tolerating a barrage of belittling and repeatedly being told you are not good enough, worthless, and that you will never amount to anything. Being proficient at recognizing the warning signs of a tirade: the rise in vocal volume, the excessive questioning about mundane subjects in order to find some misstep to seize upon, is exhausting. Why live with your insides relentlessly in knots, unconsciously flinching as you await the next open-handed smack or punch? Eventually you learn to be quiet and disappear into a world of make-believe to adapt in order to survive. This person is supposed to love and care for you. If they don’t, if you are not worthy, who will? In a world where Orders of Protection don’t protect you, who will? Even if and when you gain the strength and support required to escape, the effects of abuse linger on. Getting away from the abuser is only half the battle. Moving forward and creating an independent, self-sufficient life is a critical next step. Finding a new home, a job, enrolling into school will never completely silence the critic whispering inside. Those festering wounds of self-hatred make it an ongoing battle to learn to love and believe in yourself again. Communication is the key to survival… a single call can save your life!

Verizon Wireless who operates the fastest and most advanced 4G LTE network in America has been a strong and generous supporter of domestic violence survivors. They have addressed this pervasive and often invisible issue through various grant-making activities and community initiatives through: HopeLine® from Verizon, which collects no-longer used wireless phones, refurbishes, or recycles them, and donates the proceeds in the form of cash grants and pre-paid wireless phones to non-profit organizations that provide support to victims of domestic violence. Recently, in collaboration with The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV), the state agency responsible for improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence, Verizon developed a new way to continue supporting their common mission. They recognize that small business owners play a significant role in the state’s economy and will be a key force in the state’s economic recovery. The successful development of a small business can also bring survivors an increased control over their working lives, create important financial and social opportunities and help ensure their long-term safety and stability.

Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation are donating $45,000 to fund Verizon’s Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Grant Program which will benefit domestic violence survivors who are planning to start a small business! The grant program, currently available in New York State,  is based on the premise that domestic violence survivors, through their past experiences, coping and problem-solving skills, they have developed in order to escape the cycle of violence, are uniquely prepared to step into an entrepreneurial role. Grants will range from $1,000 to $5,000 per applicant and can be used to make a down payment on a work space, purchase a computer or other office equipment, purchase initial product inventory, as collateral to support the receipt of a small business loan, pay for child care or transportation necessary to complete entrepreneurship classes, or other start-up costs. Applicants will be required to submit a business plan, and be enrolled in, or have completed an entrepreneurship assistance program, many of which are offered across the state through local Chambers of Commerce or schools and universities. Interested individuals can obtain a grant application through their local domestic violence organization or emailing: hopelinesmallbiz@verizonwireless.com. Verizon hopes that this new resource will encourage entrepreneurship programs across the state to establish working relationships with their local domestic violence providers, giving them access to promising new students who will be able to reach safe self-sufficiency while growing the state’s economy.

Here is a synopsis of my interview with David Samberg, PR Manager for Verizon Wireless (New York Metro Region):

1)    Does Verizon have a list of local Entrepreneurship Assistance Programs? Are these programs provided at no cost?

The Verizon Wireless Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Grant program is currently offered in New York State only but we hope that it will be available nationwide in the future. There is no cost to apply for the program.

2)    Which local domestic violence organization’s benefit from Verizon’s HopeLine® initiative?

For over 10 years, we’ve been supporting a growing number of organizations in the New York Metro area that are helping domestic violence victims and are raising awareness about this issue. Some of them include Mayor Bloomberg’s Family Justice Center, Joyful Heart Foundation, Safe Horizons, Rockland Family Shelter, and Oasis – A Haven for Women and Children, among many others. You can find other organizations that we’ve worked with here.

3)    For those of us interested in volunteering or making donations in support of domestic violence survivors, which other Verizon community initiatives can we get involved with?

One of the easiest ways to support Verizon is by spreading the word and dropping off your no-longer used cell phone in any HopeLine® from Verizon recycling bin. The bins are located in all Verizon Wireless retail stores. If you prefer to do this from the convenience of your home, you can also print out a mail-in label which you can find here. In addition, you can host a phone drive to benefit victims of domestic violence and helping the environment at the same time. Here are a few quick and easy steps on how to do that.

4)    What other Verizon domestic violence-related initiatives are available to help support survivors?

The foundation of HopeLine from Verizon is phone recycling. By refurbishing and recycling devices and accessories that are no longer used, we are able to provide prepaid phones to domestic violence victims, financial assistance to domestic violence organizations and raise awareness through community events.

5)    What is the deadline to apply for Verizon’s Domestic Violence  Entrepreneurship Grant Program?

There is no deadline, applications are taken year-round. More information about Verizon’s HopeLine® Program, check out this link: http://youtu.be/XgaoPNgZRi0

Brooklyn Cupcake, in collaboration with, Verizon Wireless, sincerely hopes that the information we have shared will help you, a friend, or a loved one recognize that help is available for domestic violence. Please also share this posting with anyone you feel may be interested in donating their no-longer used cell phones and/or participating in this initiative.

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