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Candlepin helps net NELCWIT cash

ERVING — About 100 people took to the lanes to fight domestic violence by bowling Saturday.

The 37th annual Bowlathon for the The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition was the biggest yet. For three hours on Saturday, each of the 24 lanes at the French King Bowling Center was packed with teams happily raising money for a serious cause.

“NELCWIT provides comprehensive domestic violence and sexual abuse services for the Franklin County and North Quabbin areas,” said Cheryl Rogers, executive director. “The proceeds (from the bowlathon) will support our services, which we offer for free.”

Rogers said several area businesses sponsored the event, covering all associated costs. That way, every dollar the bowlers raised could go toward NELCWIT.

Teams were given prizes for the most money raised. In the spirit of fun, teams didn’t compete for high scores.

That was good for some people.

“I’m usually a better bowler,” said Stephanie Pooler, a Franklin County Safe Plan advocate. “Everything I know about regular (10-pin) bowling is wrong for candlepin.”

Growing up in Kentucky and living in Iowa until last year, Pooler hasn’t had much time to familiarize herself with New England’s version of bowling.

Others, who’ve been in the region longer, couldn’t use that excuse.

“I’m having a lot of fun, but I’m not going to tell you my score,” said District Attorney David Sullivan. “I bowl at three annual fundraisers, so that’s about the extent of my skill.”

All jokes aside, Sullivan said he was glad to support NELCWIT.

“NELCWIT is the core group that helps battered men and women in the area,” he said. “While we take care of things in the courtroom, they handle the community side of things. They help victims get into a safe place and begin to heal.”

The nonprofit offers a wide range of services for victims and their families, including a 24-hour crisis hotline, walk-in counselling, legal advocacy, restraining order assistance and supervised visitation. NELCWIT also provides community outreach and education on domestic and sexual violence.

Rogers said it’s important to educate everyone, not just victims.

“We want to teach people how to be supportive of someone who comes to them and tells them they’ve been victimized,” she said. “It’s hard for victims to reach out, and it’s important that the person they come to listens and is supportive.”

A cold shoulder can make a victim think nobody cares.

“Someone may not reach out again if the person they tell judges them or doesn’t believe their story,” Rogers explained.

Awareness helps on both sides. Rogers said victims are more likely to come forward if they don’t feel stigmatized, and the community can better help them if it knows how.

NELCWIT is also part of the White Ribbon Campaign, which encourages men to stand out against domestic and sexual violence by being active bystanders and good role models.

“This makes it not just a women’s issue. It brings the community together to work against (abuse),” said Rogers.

Rogers said the group gets a lot of community support.

Several area businesses donated raffle prizes, and gave cash donations as well. A few of them also formed bowling teams and gathered pledges before the event.

Donations go a long way, said Rogers. NELCWIT relies on fundraisers for 25 percent of its budget, with the rest coming from local, state and federal grants.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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