Pat Lostroh was the recipient of the Community Impact Award from the Butler County Chamber of Commerce at the banquet Monday night.
She received a standing ovation after her passionate remarks about helping victims of domestic abuse through Genesis House, where she has been a leader for 20 years.
“It not only feels like an award, but a reward,” she said, adding that the recognition must be shared with all the supporters, volunteers and benefactors over two decades that made Genesis Personal Development Center a reality.
Lostroh is the only staff member of Genesis House, having left her job as Butler Polk Victim Assistance Coordinator in July 2016 after 20 years at that job.
Genesis House has weathered many challenges, she said, including a basement that has been flooded six times. She thanked supporters for coming forward to stabilize the home’s basement.
She shared the progress of Genesis House, especially its upcoming transition to an “open arms approach” to helping victims, almost always women who have suffered domestic abuse.
She explained that Genesis House had to move away from its earlier role as housing for women who are starting over. In larger cities victims can move to shelters where an abuser can’t locate them. That’s not possible in a rural setting.
“We really cannot have a safe environment when there are so many people who have substance abuse problems and mental health problems. I can tell you I’ve seen an increase in those the last few years,” she said.
But Genesis House will continue helping victims get back on their feet, and Lostroh thanked those who have donated food, clothing and money.
“Those become the tools that allow us to tell someone who comes to us, ‘You can build a new life. You can start over.’ That’s why we call it Genesis House. It’s a beginning, a place to start over,” she said, adding that many victims are getting out of an abusive household, they leave everything behind.
“Sometimes when people come to us they truly have nothing,” Lostroh said. “One of our most recent ones came with a bag of clothes, a cell phone and 18 cents.”
Genesis House helps those victims get back on their feet and change their lives. Conversations with caring friends around a table help victims get their lives back.
“We do a lot of building and fixing. Not just the house, it’s the people. That is where the victory is, it’s helping people start over,” she said.
Lostroh said that while she hopes Genesis House will always be available for victims, she’d like to see the day when it wasn’t needed. As Genesis House evolves, it will still need people to step up and help. In the meantime, however, preventing abuse in the first place is better.
“It’s to say ‘No.’ It’s OK to stand up to an abusive situation, and say ‘I don’t like what you are doing. I don’t like how you treat your wife. I don’t like how you treat your children.’”
Lostroh said she was encouraged to see more emphasis on the issue of bullying in schools, and she encouraged parents to help for victims and those who do the bullying.
“I think we need to do more. I see bullying as a very first step to someone becoming abusive in the future as they grow,” she said. “If you have a son or daughter who is the victim of a bully, yes you need to get help for them to recover. But if you have a son or daughter who is a bully, you need to get them more help.”
Lostroh said that it was an honor to be recognized on Martin Luther King Day, named for the civil rights leader who was assassinated 50 years ago this May.
“I really like to think about all the people who came before me. Who helped pave the way for me, to have all the freedoms I have. Any time we are helping to bring freedom to any people anywhere, we can be sure we are doing the right things,” she said.