by Karen Keefe
Zonta Club of Grand Island
The Western New York Tribute Garden, in honor of domestic violence victims, is being dedicated Sept. 27 in Tonawanda's Isle View Park.
The Zonta Club of Grand Island is not only helping to establish the garden, it is issuing a challenge to other Island service groups: Help in any way you can to make this Tribute Garden a success - so it can have a beneficial effect on women, their families and our community.
Contribute, host a fundraiser - and come to the fifth annual Break the Cycle bike-a-thon/walk at 10 a.m. Sept. 27 at Isle View Park. Go to www.tributegardenwny.org to find out more.
This past Tuesday, the Zonta Club got a progress update on the Tribute Garden from Sawrie Becker, executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women.
Becker said the garden "is a place of hope and awareness." Hope, help and healing are what's needed to eradicate the harsh, frightening reality of domestic violence.
In Erie County, more than 14,000 incidents of domestic violence were reported to law enforcement this past year, Becker said. Even more frightening, only one in seven incidents is actually reported. The problem is bigger than you know, it surely touches someone you know, and the violence has to stop. Zonta's international rallying cry again this year is "Say No to Violence."
•On Feb. 12, 2009, Aasiya Hassan was beheaded by her husband in the local studio of their Bridges TV channel. Her murder spurred domestic violence advocates into action to help the cause of victims.
•On May 30, 2009, before dawn, Renee Hickey of North Tonawanda was shot eight times by a former boyfriend. Hickey lived.
•On June 13, 2012, at 7:59 a.m., Jackie Wisniewski was reporting to work as a secretary at ECMC in Buffalo. She was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend in a stairwell of the building.
Since Aasiya Hassan's death, it's estimated that 16 local women have been killed due to domestic violence - women ranging in age from 89 to 21. The Tribute Garden honors fallen victims and survivors, while also raising awareness. "This tribute will serve as an important reminder that domestic violence exists, and that the lives devastated by domestic violence are remembered with dignity, love and respect," Tribute Garden participants have written.
It is seen as a gathering area and a sanctuary for women, men and children. There will be an amphitheater, a Tribute Wall, a trellis, beautiful views of the Niagara River and quiet, reflective places.
Sawrie Becker is convinced that the Tribute Garden can make a difference in the fight against domestic violence.
"It's the creation of something that represents life, growth and all that is good in the world. I really believe that life takes over the darkness," she says.
Zonta Club President Agnes Becker, left, welcomes Sawrie Becker to the club's meeting on Sept. 9. Becker, executive director of the county's Commission on the Status of Women, gave Zontians a progress report on the Tribute Garden that honors domestic violence victims. The Zonta Club of Grand Island has donated $1,000 for a brick in the Tribute Wall at the garden in Isle View Park in Tonawanda. The garden will be dedicated Sept. 27.