When Kendall Fisher started college, her math skills and no-nonsense approach to life propelled her to major in accounting and finance. She envisioned a life of steady employment and better-than-average pay.
Then, in her first year away from home, one of the Columbus, Ohio, native's undergraduate friends was sexually assaulted. She was outraged at the lack of support systems available to help her friend. So she helped start a campus sexual assault program. Then she trained to be a rape advocate.
At 19, she began financing her education through full-time work at the Butler County battered women's shelter. The determined red-head with a mane of curls and an easy laugh had found her calling. She shifted her major to sociology and women's studies.
"My dad was mortified," Fisher says. "But I'd rather be broke and making a difference." As executive director of Women Helping Women, Fisher, 41, continues the quest she started more than half her lifetime ago: to stand up for the underdog and make sure people are treated fairly.
"We pride ourselves on being there when people need us the most," she says. In her time at Women Helping Women, Fisher has helped raised funds to place one full-time employee in the Personal Crimes Unit, the equivalent of the SVU, of the Cincinnati Police Department; two full-time employees within the Cincinnati Police's Domestic Violence Investigation Unit; and one full-time worker at Legal Aid.
Fresh from a 12-plus hour day on the job, Fisher laments the 42 percent cut of city funding this year and praises the often-overlooked efforts of her staff. Women Helping Women workers are in arraignment court every morning, Monday through Saturday. As the only rape crisis program in Hamilton County, the organization ensures that advocates arrive at hospitals within 20 minutes of a call about a case. More than 60 trained volunteers log 700 hours of service a year, allowing WHW to serve more than 12,000 women each year.
With the skill of an experienced negotiator and the patience to meticulously renovate a historic home in Northside, Fisher saves her biggest praise from the women her agency serves every day. "They are the ones doing the hard emotional work," she says. "They are their own heroes. We are their cheerleaders."
• Raise your cultural IQ. Attend a Sunday Salon, a series of Sunday afternoon gatherings with topics as diverse as FBI tactics and cupcakes.
• Be an advocate. After 40 hours of training, you could be a court, hospital, hotline, education or clerical advocate. Background checks required.
• Take a quiz. Do you know someone in an abusive relationship? Point and click to learn more.
For Good News Editor: Elissa Yancey (Sonnenberg)