Hackett serving as interim HAVEN executive director

May. 15, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

In Mark Hackett, HAVEN of Lee County has an energetic and experienced — albeit not yet permanent — executive director.

Hackett took over HAVEN (Helping Abuse and Violence End Now) earlier this year after Kenosha Davenport, the previous director, quit. He’s only in the job in an interim position, although Carol Carlson, president of the organization’s board of directors, said no one is in any hurry to start a search for a permanent director, whether it’s Hackett or someone else.

“Because the team is working so well together, we don’t feel this urgency that we have to get another director in here,” she said.

Hackett, who retired from the Army last summer as a master sergeant after more than 20 years of service, has a background in leadership. The 43-year-old is also more than familiar with compassion — he spent his career working as a sexual assault response coordinator. After retiring, he joined HAVEN as a community coordinator in February.

He said he’s excited to take on the challenge of being executive director, as well as working to help victims and stop abusers. He understands that healing can take a long time — he still speaks with one service member he first began counseling eight years ago, for example — but he said he has no patience for abuse itself.

“If you want to lay your hands on somebody, try one of those MMA fighters,” he said, referring to practitioners of the no-holds-barred combination of boxing, wrestling and martial arts.

In addition to directing HAVEN’s legal aid, temporary and confidential housing, and other support services for women and children in crisis, Hackett also personally oversees a support group for abusive men who want to change their ways.

“(Abuse) is about having power, and a lot of them grow up with abuse,” he said. “We’re trying to break that cycle. ... And when you have other guys telling you that you did wrong, you take it more seriously.”

In order to continue those meetings and all its other projects, HAVEN needs funding. So Carlson came up with an unorthodox fundraiser, the anti-banquet — an alternative to a fancy soiree requiring people to dress up for a catered dinner with entertainment and a speaker.

Called the Non-Event Gala, donors can participate in HAVEN’s fundraiser whenever they want simply by mailing in a check. People will save money on clothes, hair appointments, tickets and babysitters, Carlson said, and hopefully they give some (or even all) of those savings back to HAVEN. People are not only giving, she said, but reporting that they’re secretly relieved to not have to attend another black-tie dinner.

People who want to contact HAVEN for any reason — such as escaping abuse, ceasing to be abusive, getting help for a friend or making a donation — can call the nonprofit’s office at (919) 774-8923. People in an emergency should dial 911.