SIULAW alum, Candice Stearns ’16, receives an award for her work representing victims of domestic violence in this article from the Herald and Review in Decatur, IL.

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SIULAW alum, Candice Stearns ’16, receives an award for her work representing victims of domestic violence in this article from the Herald and Review in Decatur, IL.

October 29, 2020, by Donnette Beckett | Herald-Review.com

candice stearns

DECATUR — The staff at Dove’s Domestic Violence Program usually hold their annual October Candlelighting Ceremony to recognize National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

On Wednesday, they instead met with community members in front of the Macon County Courthouse for a press conference to honor victims of domestic violence and those who survived. 

“And to recognize the many who work hard every single day to help put an end to domestic violence,” said Teri Ducy, director of Dove’s Domestic Violence Program.

This year marks Dove’s 50th anniversary in Decatur. The focus of the agency is to address unmet human needs and social injustices, work for justice, equality and understanding among all people.

Ten years after being founded, Dove began providing services for victims of domestic violence.

“We were needed back then,” Ducy said. “And we are still vital now.”

The Decatur Police Department said officers responded to more than 4,000 calls related to domestic violence in a single year. Dove’s hotline received more than 2,000 calls and assisted with 322 orders of protection, according to Ducy.

Although the ceremony was different from previous years, organizers wanted to recognize victims and survivors with the lighting of the candles, an important tradition of past ceremonies. A white candle was lit in memory of 19-month-old, Jayden Comage, who died Oct. 7, 2019, allegedly while in his mother's care. Other victims were also honored during this portion of the ceremony.

A purple candle was lit to honor domestic violence survivors and their children. “We pray your road ahead is paved with nothing but peace, justice and safety with a life free of all abuse as you cross each new stepping stone in your path,” Ducy said.

Awards were also presented to those assisting clients and others in the community.

Sheriff Deputy Tim Hoffman, Candice Stearns and Decatur Police Detective Ben Massey received plaques and recognition for their work with domestic violence victims.

For two years, Stearns has been a staff attorney with the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid covering 10 counties, including Macon County. Her cases involve domestic violence, orders of protection and family matters. She said the award gives reassurance to what she is doing. “Our work is hard, dealing with victims and extreme circumstances,” she said.

Stearns and attorneys like her often become frustrated. “You just helped five, now there’s a hundred more,” she said. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but you remember why you’re doing it and the outcomes and the people.”

The award did not provide the same feelings. “But it’s very nice to be recognized,” Stearns said. “It’s a collaboration. Without Dove, I wouldn’t be able to do my job as well.”

During the ceremony, Ducy gave special recognition to the agency and those who are working to end domestic violence.

“Because of each of you, so many victims would have otherwise had nowhere to go or no one to turn to,” she said.

Dove’s Executive Director Tammy Wilcox concluded Wednesday’s ceremony by presenting Ducy with a plaque of her own as well as a bouquet of flowers.

“Teri Ducy has been with Dove for 30 years, serving victims of domestic violence, supporting her staff and being out there in the community promoting the issues,” Wilcox said. “We hate that we can’t have a big ceremony for her.”

“I love the Dove family,” Ducy said after the surprise presentation. “And I love what we stand for.”