Women's Center & Shelter Announces 18th Annual UPMC Health Plan Spring Clothes Out Event

PITTSBURGH, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- The Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh is pleased to announce UPMC Health Plan as the naming sponsor for its 18th Annual Spring Clothes Out Event to be held Wednesday, May 7, 2008, from 5 - 7:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. The annual event also welcomes its first Honorary Chair, Diane P. Holder, President and CEO of UPMC Health Plan.

"UPMC Health Plan is pleased to champion the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh's efforts to end intimate partner violence in the lives of women and their children in the Pittsburgh area," said Diane P. Holder. "They are making a real difference. Over the past year, the Women's Center & Shelter Hotline answered about 5,000 domestic violence-related calls and counseled more than 600 adults and 70 children."

"We feel extremely fortunate for the generosity and support UPMC Health Plan has given to our Spring Clothes Out event," stated Shirl Regan, Executive Director of the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. "Thanks to their support, we look forward to a very successful event."

The UPMC Health Plan Spring Clothes Out Event annually presents the Ted Craig Humanitarian Award to an organization that demonstrates and embodies the spirit of the award's namesake, Ted Craig. Mr. Craig, a former managing partner at Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, LLP, was a loyal friend and supporter of the Women's Center & Shelter. Honorees who receive this award exhibit excellence and outstanding achievement and commitment to eliminating intimate partner violence.

This year, WC&S will present the award to the Allegheny County's District Attorney's Domestic Violence (DV) Unit. The DV Unit was formed in 1999 by District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. First Assistant District Attorney, Chris Connors, was the Unit's first "specialist" in intimate partner violence and assisted in the development of the DV Unit. Currently, the Unit is headed by Deputy District Attorney, Darrell Dugan, and consists of five prosecutors, one paralegal, and one legal intern.

Prior to the formation of the DV Unit, it is estimated that over 75% of the domestic violence prosecutions were not processed to a final court outcome with many of them being withdrawn or dismissed. Now, that number has flipped to over 75% being prosecuted to verdict, with the clear message being sent that DV is a crime. The installation of the DV Unit has also brought with it a strong partnership with WC&S's Legal Advocacy Department. Now the DV Unit and WC&S work together as DV cases are prosecuted at the Common Pleas Court Level and in hearings for Indirect

Criminal Contempt for violations of Protection from Abuse Orders. The two offices also work as co-presenters and co-facilitators in domestic violence training for police officers. The partnership has provided a critical resource for DV victims who seek protection and justice from intimate partner violence.

"The creation of the District Attorney's DV Unit has been the most significant improvement ever in this county's criminal justice system in terms of its response to victims of intimate partner violence. The DV prosecutors are in a unique position to ensure victim safety and hold batterers accountable as they not only prosecute individual cases but also work to improve the overall justice system response to DV," commented WC&S Legal Director, Lorraine Bittner. WC&S Legal Advocacy Manager, Joyce McAneny, concurred by saying, "We are especially proud of the strong relationship and good communication that have been forged between the DA's DV Unit and WC&S as they work on behalf of DV victims."

The second focus of the event entails accepting clothing donations for resident and non-resident clients of WC&S. Donations of gently worn women's business suits or dresses will be accepted for women who are entering or continuing in the work force in an effort to ease any financial burden. Donations of used cell phones will also be accepted. Additionally, the event will welcome a survivor of intimate partner violence who will tell her story and how she was helped by WC&S and the DV Unit.

Since 1974, WCS has been offering a safe haven for women and children who are victims of intimate partner violence. As one of the first six Domestic Violence Shelters in the United States, WC&S has worked tirelessly to provide first rate care for women and children by providing support, advocacy and information to allow them to make informed decisions for themselves and their children.

WC&S provides high quality, confidential programs offered in an environment where justice, autonomy, restoration and safety are the priorities. Special events like UPMC Health Plan Spring Clothes Out help raise the money needed for WC&S to provide its services free of charge including:

Tickets for the UPMC Health Plan Spring Clothes Out are $50 per person and can be purchased on-line at www.wcspittsburgh.org or by calling 412-687-8017 X338.

SOURCE Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh