Will support domestic violence services in rural Illinois

SPRINGFIELD - October 22, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon presented a $10,000 check to domestic violence advocates in the State Capitol today, after her office collected more than 1,000 used cell phones during a Domestic Violence Awareness Month phone drive.

This is the second year Simon's office partnered with Verizon Wireless for the HopeLine phone drive. The phones, donated by the public and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, were collected at Simon's Chicago and Capitol offices as well as by the Illinois State Bar Association and The Chicago Bar Association.

For each phone collected Verizon donated $10 to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which will use the money to expand its Virtual Legal Clinic consultation program. Piloted by Simon's office, the Virtual Legal Clinic connects domestic violence survivors in underserved rural areas with an experienced family law attorney for free legal counseling using webcam technology.

"It is critical that domestic violence survivors, regardless of where they live, can have access to basic legal services," said Simon, a former Jackson county prosecutor and founder of a domestic violence legal clinic at Southern Illinois University School of Law. "By providing funding to expand the Virtual Legal Clinic, this phone drive will help further that goal."

The Virtual Legal Clinic began at The Center for Prevention of Abuse and has expanded to the Crisis Center Foundation in Jacksonville. The project was developed in-house by the Lt. Governor's office with materials funded by ICADV. Participating attorneys may be able receive free continuing legal education credits.

"The clinic gives survivors another tool to increase their options for safety," said Vickie Smith, executive director of ICADV. "We are so pleased with this private-public-corporate partnership."

The collected phones will be erased, refurbished and sold, with the proceeds going to support local domestic violence shelters and programs. The HopeLine program also provides domestic violence agencies with wireless phones and airtime for use by domestic violence victims. If a phone can't be refurbished, it will be recycled in an environmentally sound way.

"Verizon is dedicated to supporting organizations like the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence," said T.J. Fox, region president, Verizon Wireless. "We applaud their important contribution to our community to help victims and raise awareness of this pervasive problem and to end domestic violence."

Since its recycling program was launched in 2001, HopeLine has collected more than 9 million wireless phones and has awarded more than $14.2 million in cash grants to domestic violence organizations throughout the country. More than 123,000 HopeLine phones with the equivalent of more than 406 million minutes of airtime have been provided to victims, survivors and domestic violence organizations since the program's inception.

This is not the only creative funding solution to come from Simon's office. This past spring Lt. Governor Simon advocated for a new fee on strip clubs that serve alcohol to generate revenue for sexual assault prevention. It goes into effect January 1.

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