By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
Mercer County AWARE will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a dinner later this month where the strides the domestic violence and sexual abuse advocacy agency have made in the last five years will be highlighted.
The event is from 5 to 7 p.m. March 21 at The Corinthian, 47 Vine Ave., Sharon.
Lizette Olsen, AWARE executive director, said the agency’s growth is due to the generosity of community members who donate their time and money to supporting victims of abuse.
“It takes a community to stop domestic and sexual violence and to help the victims,” Olsen said.
Retired county Judge Francis J. Fornelli, District Attorney Robert G. Kochems and CommLink Communications will be honored for their commitment to the growth of AWARE.
Milestones being celebrated include: the building of the PAWS, pets and women shelter, the first animal shelter in Mercer County for pets of the abused; opening of the Williams House in Greenville to help victims in the rural areas of the county; new legal offices across from the courthouse; the awarding of a STOP – Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors - grant to the agency; and the naming of the Shirley Bursey House emergency housing facility in Sharon.
Fornelli and Kochems are being honored because they were advocates in securing STOP funding and other legal strides AWARE has made in the past five years, Olsen said.
In 2010, AWARE was awarded $680,000 in STOP funding intended to improve investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. It allowed the county to hire a full-time investigator dedicated to sexual assault cases and has led to several successful prosecutions, Olsen said.
A silent celebrity auction to benefit PAWS will round out the night. Among the list of celebrities donating items are Mark Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne, Betty White and Bob Barker.
For more information on Mercer County AWARE and auction items, visit www.merceraware.org, and Facebook page: Mercer AWARE.