Carson City’s Lisa Lee still fighting for women |

Carson City’s Lisa Lee still fighting for women

Ronni Hannaman
Advocates to end Domestic Violence Executive Director Lisa Lee poses in the boutique section of Classy Seconds. The thrift store financially supplements the nonprofit’s mission to assist victims of domestic violence.
Photo by Ronni Hannaman

There are many special women making a difference in Carson City and one of those very special women is Lisa Lee, executive director of Advocates to End Domestic Violence.

As a supplement to the lead story providing a glimpse into the long and arduous history of women’s rights, I thought profiling Lee and the role Advocates has played in the lives of over 4,500 local women since their shelter opened in 1981 would enhance the story of the long road women have had to traverse over the years. Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight — even after 170 years of protests.

Lee and her siblings were raised in an abusive home environment, giving her first-hand knowledge of what a child experiences when witnessing an abusive relationship. This personal knowledge was helpful when she took over as shelter manager of a four-plex in 1986, working her way to becoming the executive director of Advocates in 1988 at just 26 years old.

Lee is proud of Carson City for recognizing the plight of abused women well before any of the surrounding counties realized there was a need stating, “It was truly cutting edge and daring of Carson City to allow the opening of a women’s shelter in 1979.” Lee adds the reason for the shelter was because the National Organization of Women (NOW) were pushing for abused women to leave their abuser. “There was no place for these women to go and going home to their family was not the answer, for it was a dirty family secret that one of their own was abused,” she further reminisced.

Advocates was started by two abused women without financial resources, but with the conviction they had to assist others like themselves. They first started a crisis hotline and established a safety net by assigning women and children to temporary shelter in volunteer homes. But, the need for a formal shelter where counselors and others could assist these women soon became apparent.

That first two-bedroom shelter has now morphed into a 51-bed shelter, often full. Carson’s shelter, according to Lee, is the largest in the region and almost double the size of Reno’s shelter, though Reno’s population is far greater.

Lee spends most of her waking hours writing grants, overseeing the popular thrift store, Classy Seconds — which accounts for about 40 percent of her funding — and conducting fundraisers to raise monies to support the many programs administered by her staff to support the programs needed to allow women to renew their lives.

An interesting funding source comes from the state through distribution of a special tax on marriage licenses which seems odd when you actually think about it. A portion of Carson’s $75 license fee goes to support domestic violence programs statewide, of which Carson City receives about $80,000 annually based on current population. Lee cites, “This funding allocation was a brave thing to do since only 13 states have this kind of stable funding for domestic violence programs and that has made a dramatic difference in what we can do.”

Lee and her staff organize the very popular Taste of Downtown event — a huge block party this year on July 21. Think of this event as a huge reunion where neighbors catch up with neighbors. Not a huge money-maker, the event raises awareness of domestic violence, and that is half the battle.

Each time you donate to Classy Seconds or purchase an item within the thrift store, know the monies go for a noble cause — providing programs and shelter for abused women and their children — a plight that seemingly will never subside.

As a close to Women’s History Month, Lee mused, “I applaud the courageous women who came before us who opened the door just a crack but died before they saw the fruits of their labors. I wonder if they would be proud today of the fight they so courageously fought or whether they would be disappointed not more has been done.”