For 20 years, area women chefs have cooked up some of their best dishes for the Women Chefs’ Showoff benefiting the Iris Domestic Violence Center, formerly the Battered Women’s Program. But, this year’s March 26 event will be a first for Lynne Medley-Long.
Medley-Long, 52, is the new executive director of Iris, having taken over on Feb. 2 from interim director Sylvia Duke. The Pittsburgh native has spent the past 20 years serving and advocating to improve the health and well-being of those most in need.
“I’ve been in healthcare administration mostly in community health centers, which spans the whole gamut,” says Medley-Long, who has her own domestic violence story.
Now she’s bringing her management skills to the agency.
“I have a knack for managing crisis well and turning things around,” she explains. “I like to say I don’t suffer from ‘I want to be liked’ disease.”
That said, Medley-Long is at a stage in her life where what she does and how she does it are very important to her.
“I want to leave a legacy,” she says. “Help create the next generation of leaders. This isn’t just a job but a calling.
“Domestic violence is a greater problem than healthcare,” she continues, especially in Louisiana, which has the second highest number of homicides related to domestic violence in the nation. “It’s a silent killer … most of what we do here goes unreported.”
Medley-Long hopes to change that statistic.
“Domestic violence is a tough subject to embrace,” she says. “But we’re going to focus on a massive public awareness campaign that dovetails off the NFL’s No More campaign. We have to sensitize people to the harsh realities that we have to start talking about domestic violence, educate people on where to turn for help.”
Iris, named for the purple Louisiana flower known for its toughness, resiliency and beauty, is a place to turn. Every day, it serves an average of 55 battered women and their children in its emergency shelter, serves 17 women/children in nonresidential programs, handles 20 crisis calls, conducts nine education/training programs and processes 10 needs requests.
“This organization has a long-standing history in the community,” says Medley-Long. “We need to re-establish its important footing in the community … re-establish Iris as the largest, and hopefully, the leading, domestic violence agency in the state.”
When Medley-Long’s not waging a battle against domestic violence, she’s puttering in her garden, reading and playing mom to her five dogs — four miniature pinschers and a beagle. She’s also a big fan of music and the theater.
But, as she says, heading up Iris isn’t a job but a calling, so her “me time” is limited. She’s determined to “galvanize” support to continue service to East and West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Ascension, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes.
She wants to revamp the donor and volunteer bases toward sustaining legacy based programs.
“Once someone is involved with Iris, I want their family and friends to get involved and stay involved, too,” says Medley-Long.
Another pet project it to create a Family Justice Center model in collaboration with the courts, law enforcement and other local service providers.
Based on the Blueprint for Safety, the model is anchored in six foundational principals identified as essential characteristics of intervention that maximize safety for domestic violence victims and hold offenders accountable while offering them opportunities to change.
“We have to create an infrastructure and that’s a big order,” says Medley-Long. “I envision us as trailblazers and the model to be something that would be replicable in another community … First and foremost we want to make sure our programs are of the finest quality. Excellence is our No. 1 goal.”