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CAASA: Doing more with less

New leaders hope to help people at all levels of life

July 11, 2012
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

It seems like we're in a time when we're all asked to do more with less, and there couldn't be a better example of that than the Centers Against Abuse & Sexual Assault, probably better known as CAASA, which continues to serve Emmet and area counties.

Serving Emmet, Dickinson, Clay, Palo Alto, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida and Sac counties, CAASA is represented locally by Jennifer Schlitz, Dickinson/Emmet County coordinator. Overseeing the eight-county organization is Julie Schulenberg, executive director.

Both joined CAASA several years ago, and both took their current positions April 16.

Article Photos

Jennifer Schiltz, Dickinson/Emmet County coordinator, and Julie Schulenberg, executive director, long-term CAASA employees, both assumed their current positions with the Centers Against Abuse & Sexual Assault April 16.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Schulenberg, a 16-year veteran with the agency, was CAASA coordinator in Cherokee County while Schiltz was education advocate for the Safe Touches Program before moving into her current county coordinator position.

Even as the demand for services is higher than ever, Schulenberg said financial cutbacks have forced CAASA to do more with less - something that's increasingly becoming a challenge.

"We're still there," said Schulenberg. "We still serve victims in Emmet County."

Schulenberg said victims of either sexual assault or domestic violence can call the 24-hour crisis line: 1-877-362-4612.

"We're just trying to be efficient and effective with our dollars," said Schulenberg. And anyone who wants to help is certainly welcome.

With its main office in Spencer, CAASA has outreach offices in Spirit Lake, Cherokee and Storm Lake.

Schulenberg said CAASA served 826 new victims in its eight-county area last year.

Despite such heavy demand, CAASA continues to reach out to all ages. Schulenberg would like to get into schools even more and talks about safe touch. "Our hope is that we can help the most people," she said.

Schiltz is collaborating with Iowa Lakes Community College on a rape-prevention program.

"I feel like there's really good community in Emmet County," said Schulenberg, pointing to the county's support of the crisis line as a prime example.

Schulenberg notes a significant impact on families from the economic crisis - an impact that can exacerbate problems. With a waiting list for HUD housing, she said clients need access to computers to help in their job searches as well. Toward that end, Iowa Workforce Development put a computer in the CAASA shelter.

Other CAASA projects include the food pantry and 2nd Chances thrift store in Spencer - a project Schulenberg headed up when New Leaf of Cherokee, an agency she founded, merged with CAASA five years ago.

Schiltz plans on getting into high schools to start sexual assault response teams. "We're happy to go out and do presentations" as well, she said.

"The need is out there," said Schulenberg. "We're going to try to help the victims as much as we can. This isn't a women's issue or a gender issue. This is a people issue."



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