By Laura Bruni
Daily Southtown • Jun 07, 2023 at 5:33 am

DJ Love will be spinning tunes Saturday in Homewood in an energetic event asking people to line dance, cardio drum and Jazzercise against domestic violence.
A fundraiser for Anew, formerly known as South Suburban Family Shelter, the Dancing Away Domestic
Violence event is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. in Martin Square, 18020 Martin Ave., in Homewood. While the event is planned to be fun, it addresses an issue of particular concern, as pandemic-related stresses
caused incidents to surge in Illinois and nationwide. According to a 2021 report from The Network, a Chicago-based advocacy group, the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline at 877-863-6338 saw a 9% increase in calls in 2022.

Anew offers free services to survivors ranging from a 24-hour hotline and emergency shelter to community education, counseling, court advocacy, domestic violence advocacy, an abuse intervention program and housing assistance, said Rachel Forsyth, development coordinator for the group.

The group was also important in her personal life. “My own mother received services when I was a teenager,” said Forsyth, who also received support services. “I remembered how impactful and rewarding it was to see the change in my mother. She was visibly happier.”
As a child counseling client Forsythe was eligible in high school for a free backpack. She still remembers the feeling of opening it.
“It came with one of those fancy calculators,” she said, adding her sense of gratitude came with purpose. “Itstuck with me. I volunteered in shelters in college.”
Upon graduation, as fate would have it, the first job posting she saw was for an administrative assistant post at South Suburban Family Shelter.
“I’ve seen this place grow before my eyes,” she said. Her position evolved along with the group, which included the name change/rebranding, and of course, the pandemic.
“Dancing Away Domestic Abuse was the brainchild of Marydale, a former board member who is a big linedancer,” Forsyth said. “Just over 100 people attended last year’s, and we are hoping for about the same this year. It was the perfect amount for people to have enough space to dance.”

The first event, held amid the pandemic three years ago, was a means of spreading awareness in a
socially distanced way, including masks. “We hadn’t gotten together in a long time,” Forsyth said. The event expanded the second year to include cardio drumming; this year Jazzercise has been added to the mix. Everyone is welcome to watch, she said, but participation will cost $20 for those 13 and older, $10 for kids 12and younger. The event, which will follow the weekly village farmer’s market, will include door prizes and a swag bag for participants. Last year’s event raised nearly $1,000 to support Anew’s mission.
“We are hoping to match that number this year,” Forsyth said.

The high visibility of the fundraiser serves a secondary purpose, she said, allowing Anew to better define its services. “The South Suburban Humane Society is right across the street,” Forsyth said with a laugh. “Plus the South Suburban Chamber of Commerce. There’s a lot of ‘South Suburban’ out there. The name ‘Anew, building beyond violence and abuse,’ makes it a lot more clear to people what we actually do.”

Laura Bruni is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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