As OPTIONS drive begins, retiring director looks back on the decades
By KARI BLURTON
Behind and beyond the doors of Options: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services staff estimates in the last 30 years the organization has helped approximately 18,000 people live lives free of violence.
Now, after 20 of those years, the person at the helm — Executive Director Charlotte Linsner — is saying goodbye, announcing her upcoming retirement.
“I have encompassed my life in this you know for the last 14, 15 years. Longer than that because I was an advocate first — six years an advocate and 14 years here, so that’s 20 years, “ Linsner said.
Before she leaves, however, Linsner will help lead a capital campaign for the nonprofit agency, which serves 18 counties in northwest Kansas. The group, which offers confidential safe houses and a wide variety of services for victims, is attempting to raise $250,000 to bolster finances and ensure its stability well into the future. For more information or to donate, call (785) 625-4242.
“It’s time for people with some newer ideas and a little more vitality than I have anymore,” Linsner, 67, added with a laugh. “I have the heart but not necessarily the strength anymore.”
But strength is exactly what Linsner offered her clients — survivors — who will never forget Options and what the agency did for thousands of families. Linsner and her staff helped them break the cycle of abuse.
“Some of the times, we have had a child who is now an adult but their mother came through at the time, and you can talk to them and they come and say, ‘My mom was here. You guys made a difference in our lives,’ ” she said. “They are not in an abusive relationship and they have their children and going to school … That is what is all about.”
Linsner speaks with a passion about ending domestic violence. Her co-workers say it’s Charlotte’s passion they will miss most.
“When you talk about somebody being passionate about something, it’s the little things, the things that happen behind the scenes,” Options advocate Dennis Becking said.
“I know that Charlotte would step up and wash clothes that were donated, spend her evenings ironing those clothes and putting them in plastic wrap and storing them for one purpose only, to be able to provide those to individuals who were fleeing from a real tough situation,” said Becking.
Shelter advocate, Jackie Gray says she will also miss Linsner’s “spunkiness,” and said she is one of the funniest people she knows.
Passion, spunk and a need to help others are traits Linsner says she has possessed from a young age, learning from her grandmother.
“She was one of the nicest people,” Linsner said.
Her grandmother also happened to be in a “severely abusive” relationship — violence that was also carried over to young Charlotte and her two siblings.
Linsner is leaving a legacy that will be hard to replace, but she believes her grandmother would be proud.
“Every day, I wake up I say, ‘This is a little payback for you, Grandma,’ ” said Linsner.
Linsner’s last day is scheduled for late June, but she will not completely leave Options and advocacy work behind. Linsner plans to work once a month at the shelter house as an advocate — something she says she is looking forward to doing again.
Linsner said she will also be spending some of her extra time taking history and photography classes at Fort Hays State University and spending more time on one of her favorite hobbies — genealogy.
What does her husband, Larry, think of Charlotte’s retirement?
“I think he really enjoys the fact that I’m going to around a lot of the time. He likes to have me just sitting there with him,” Lisner said, “but he doesn’t realize I am just not going to be all be around him all that much.
“I am who I am. I’m going to do what I’m going to do,” she added with a laugh.
Linsner also is looking forward to visiting her four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
For more on the fund drive, Options services and more stories from the nonprofit agency, check Hays Post in the coming weeks.