When Patti Hoag, owner of Lake Oswego Jewelers, was told that she was this year's recipient of the Clackamas Women's Services Triumph Award, she remembers 'being speechless.' And yet it was a speech she delivered at the organization's Harvest of Hope event in October of 2009 that partly led to her being chosen for this award.
'Her speech was compelling and genuine - so many people came to us after that speech and wanted to share their own stories or help,' said Melissa Erlbaum, executive director of CWS, the county's only shelter for women and children escaping family violence.
She said Hoag was chosen for the Triumph Award because of her courage in overcoming the effects of domestic violence; her vision in bringing the 'voice of nonprofits' to the Lake Oswego Rotary Club; and her compassion demonstrated by her 'amazing' ability both to empathize with others and to make sure they have access to resources and feel supported.
Erlbaum added that it was especially courageous for Hoag to speak up about domestic violence in a community that perhaps is not always willing to talk about it openly.
'She was willing to put herself out there in a brave way - it took courage to come in as a business owner and a high-profile member of the community. She is an ally and an ambassador in the community. I look upon her speech as breaking the silence.'
'I still have people coming up to me and telling me what an incredible speech it was,' Hoag said.
The subject of her speech was both a difficult and in-tensely personal one. Because she experienced abuse as a wife and mother, her vision is to talk about the problem, not sweep it under the rug.
'People need to realize this happens and stop closing their minds about this; domestic abuse has no social or economic boundaries. We need to open windows and doors and talk about this - sometimes people look down on (people who have experienced domestic violence), and that whole mentality needs to be reversed,' she added.
Hoag will be one of three individuals and one organization honored at the 25th annual Heroes of Hope banquet on Saturday, April 16.
Hoag is a member of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club and the chairman of its annual silent auction and lobster-feed fundraiser. One of the beneficiaries of that event is Clackamas Women's Services, which Hoag said is a cause she is 'personally passionate about,' because when she was experiencing domestic violence there was no place for her to seek help.
She remembers a time when she was in a hiding place in her home and she was looking through a phone book trying to find a shelter; she came across one in Multnomah County, but was told her only option in Clackamas County was to call a woman and leave a voice mail for her to call back.
'There was not a shelter when I needed it; I so could have used a place to know my son was safe and there were tools to help us continue to be safe. It was only a matter of time before something tragic happened to me and my son; it was a time before there were laws to protect people,' Hoag said.
She is glad that things have changed and evolved, and that places like the CWS shelters exist, but they are too small to accept everyone.
'We need to get the information out - there are still so many women and children who are living in fear.'
Hoag likens domestic violence to war, and said that we send troops to other countries 'to step in for human rights, and yet don't take care of home first. What is going on at home is the same as dictatorships in other countries. (For abusers) it is all about control - including thought control and financial control. And they can so easily take a life - you can't fight lies, you can't combat crazy.'
We all have busy lives, but, Hoag said, we all have the responsibility to be proactive in stopping abuse.
'Even though I experienced severe abuse in my marriage, I managed to pull out of it and raise my son. I found some kind of inner strength - I drew on some power I didn't know I had. Not unlike war, after the 'battle' I had post traumatic stress syndrome; it was fight or flight,' Hoag said.
She is willing to share her experience, because 'you have to talk about it to heal.'
Hoag first learned about CWS when she joined Rotary in the early '90s, and discovered that the organization was a major benefactor of the annual lobster feed and silent auction.
Because she is so busy as owner of Lake Oswego Jewelers, she can't physically volunteer with CWS, but she always makes sure that the auction has at least one item from her store.
'Clackamas Women's Services is why I get involved; I give up my one-week vacation to focus on the auction,' Hoag said.
What she likes best about being a jeweler is that it is a 'happy business, where I get to watch people smile, and I know I am part of their legacy, when they buy a family heirloom to treasure for a lifetime to come. We become their history.'
Hoag is proud to be the third-generation owner of Lake Oswego Jewelers, and she is even more proud that her son will represent the fourth generation. Her son and his fiancée will be with her at the CWS banquet on April 16, when she receives the Triumph Award.