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Inspiring Conversations with Jessica Nicely of Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Nicely.

Hi Jessica, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
The journey that brought me to where I am today really began when my mother left when I was just eight months old. That tragedy led to my father becoming a lifelong, full-time alcoholic, who eventually became abusive. As soon as I got the opportunity, I moved across the country here to Arizona to attend Arizona State University.

Shortly after, I was crowned Miss Arizona USA and got to represent our great state in the Miss USA pageant. But even more important for me, I was honored to be named a spokesperson for Prevent Child Abuse America’s Arizona Chapter, and I got to travel the state sharing my story as a survivor of child abuse, bringing hope to children and adult survivors all around Arizona.

That marked the beginning of my 26 years of being an advocate for child abuse prevention and awareness which was the precursor to me starting my own nonprofit Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation in January 2013. Winged Hope provides hope and healing to victims of violence and we have served over 55,000 people around the state of Arizona, either through training or direct victim services.

While I am very proud of my work in child abuse and family violence prevention my greatest accomplishment is being a Mama to my two beautiful children and a wife to my husband of 22 years.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I started speaking about my childhood and the abuse when my Daddy was still alive. That was a hard conversation, sharing with him that my goal was not to tell the state of Arizona that he was a bad father but to provide hope to those who were currently living with violence and to those who had survived it as I had.

When my father took his own life, while I was still in college, there were some who blamed me because of my outspokenness about his violence. While I made my peace with that, it was definitely not easy to endure that with the pain that was already present being a survivor of suicide loss and then being without either a father or a mother.

Starting and running a nonprofit was also a challenge. I had some amazing mentors along the way which helped tremendously but there are numerous struggles. And as a survivor, it is definitely trying on my heart and soul to be met with so much trauma and violence that so often mirrors my own past, on a daily basis.

As you know, we’re big fans of the Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Winged Hope’s programs focus on preventing and healing family violence.

We serve the community in three ways: with direct victims services, by supporting Family Advocacy Centers, and by providing training around the state. ​With no paid staff, Winged Hope has reached over 55,00 people around the state of Arizona either through direct victim services or training.

We believe in collaborating with other nonprofits, government agencies, and the community at large to help spread our message of hope, and provide services to all who need us.

One thing that really sets Winged Hope apart is that we don’t just serve the direct victim of the violence, but also their immediate family members. When for example, a child has been sexually abused, we know that creates trauma for the nonoffending parent and also for the person who sometimes has witnessed this violence occurring.

We try to heal the entire family, not just the direct victim as we know that ultimately that will provide the best hope and healing for the victim, to have a healthy family that has healed alongside them.

What does success mean to you?
To me, success means living a life with the intention of making life better for others. Success means rising above your circumstances to create the best life possible, not just for yourself but for others.

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Image Credits
Emily Vance and Epic Light Media

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