OSCEOLA COUNTY — WISE. Women’s Information Service, Inc.

Domestic violence is often the trigger for someone to make a call to WISE.

The reported incident is not necessarily the first time “it” happens. Often through tears and sometimes hysteria, women call to ask for help. Or beg for help. Often it takes time to get the courage to make the call, and during that time, the violence, the threats of violence, and the fear continues.

Sometimes the call comes after a spouse is already in jail. Or far too late. Maybe not in time. Thoughts say, “next time.” And lost in the never.

Nicole Sims knows all too well the stories, and the terrible pain that goes along with them. For some there is hope. For others the only hope is finding safety. WISE offers both.

Sims is the legal advocate for WISE in both Osceola and Mecosta counties. She has an office at the United Methodist Church in Reed City, another in Mecosta County at the back of the WISE Shopper, two or three doors north of J.C. Penney. Another office is at White Cloud. Still another in Newaygo. They have their own legal advocate.

As such, Sims fills out paperwork for Personal Protection Orders, “… and I take them to the courthouse to file them. That doesn’t cost, but it does cost to serve,” she explained.

“A lot of my job is to help people find money to have the paperwork served. I also go to court with them as a support.”

In addition, she runs a domestic violence and sexual assault task force, “where we invite law enforcement officers, hospital supervisors, housing supervisors and others in to discuss the issues. We determine what we need to do to collaborate on various things and work on these situations together.”

That group meets quarterly.

“Also, I’m in charge of our Choosing Healthy Dynamics program. When a woman gets arrested for domestic violence, what we usually do is discover that she’s been the victim all along, and the one time she stood up for herself, she got arrested.

“When that happens, the judges sentences them to some sort of counseling to prevent the same thing from happening again, and that’s what I do.

“I’m only part-time, but I take it home and work extra and I don’t worry about it. I’d worry more about it if I tried to just drop it until later,” she said.

“I love my job, so I have two counties. I’m allowed 20 hours per week. That’s what my funding is for, but the job is bigger than that. Our executive director is wonderful at securing additional funding when it’s needed for certain things.”

Sims said each advocate runs the WISE Shelter two or three days each month, “and we answer the phones, do the laundry for the bedding of those staying there, and complete the paperwork with them. We also have an awesome, awesome after-hours staff. They are paid staff, and oversee the house and make sure nothing is wrong. They answer phones. They are just awesome.”

Volunteers have to go through WISE 101 and WISE 102, she explained. “And that includes all sorts of training. Answering phones, working with clients, covering for us while we’re in meetings. They do so much, and our agency could not perform without our volunteers.”

The shelter has 20 beds in four rooms, and two infant beds in each. “We can put in more infants and children’s beds when we need to,” she said.

In addition to dealing with domestic violence toward women, she said, “We also help men. If they are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, we do help them, but cannot provide shelter for them because we don’t have a facility for housing men.”

Sims said the shelter for women is usually full, “and in the year I’ve been here, we’ve only had one or two openings at a time.”

She estimated that in any given year, more than 200 cases are handled, and the usual stay at the shelter would be 60 days, “because they need help finding housing before they leave. If you know someone who is a victim of either, a man or woman, refer them to our agency.”

She noted that there is always a need for volunteers, “and we do have a WISE list of needs for the shelter. We do Adopt-a-Family at Christmas, and many businesses do outreach with our clients too. We do pattern-changing and immediate crisis counseling, and so often the financial stability isn’t there, so we always have needs people can help us address.”

The WISE Shelter will host an open house  from 3 to 6 p.m. on Nov. 30, in Big Rapids. Visitors will be able to learn about the shared chores there, such as dinner-making and other responsibilities, the programs and counseling of various issues and meet the staff.

“They will not meet the clients,” she explained, saying they would be on an outing so their confidentiality isn’t breached. If those who visit are helping to support our efforts, they’ll see firsthand what they are supporting when possible.”

She said, “Yoplait is huge with our agency, through United Way, and they basically last year took on a couple of our largest families to help them with Christmas.”

Anyone wishing additional information may call WISE at (231) 796-6600.