In commemoration of Women’s History Month, I have asked the staff at Bedlam Law to share a story of a woman, or women, who inspire them. As women, we lead such busy lives. Our daily schedules are full of appointments, carpools, kids’ activities, cooking, cleaning, and much more, keeping us from taking the time we should to appreciate ourselves, or, to appreciatively uplift other women in our lives who inspire us. Not because we are not grateful for our accomplishments or theirs, but because “life” happens.
So today, I would like to take the time to tell you about two women who inspire and motivate me. Who have loved me, even when I did not love myself. Who drove hours to help me care for our grandmother, then our grandfather, and are always there for me, to give guidance and advice that is always sound. They have taught me about perseverance, and shown me that as women, we are capable of more than we ever imagined.
These two women are my first cousins Tracey Passentino and Leslie Lust. They are both strong, courageous women who have overcame huge obstacles in their lives to raise children, put themselves through college, and start their own businesses, all as single mothers. Although, that alone is reason for accolades, what I find most inspiring about these two, was a “project” turned “movement,” born from a tragic situation and the loving bond between a big sister and her love for her baby sister.
To me, Tracey and Leslie were my beautiful older cousins who seemed to have picture perfect lives. Leslie and I had our daughters on the same day 3 hours apart. I will never forget the day that my grandmother and grandfather came over, my grandmother was noticeably upset, and they told me that Leslies husband had assaulted her to the point that she had been hospitalized and he was being held in jail, and that her and their 2 girls were going to stay in a battered women’s shelter so that they would be safe.
I worried about what she was going to do, as she had been a stay at home mother for so many years, and I had once read that many of the women who survive years of abuse, have a hard time gaining the momentum needed to move forward in life, due to PTSD, lack of work or academic experience, and for many other reasons. Tracey, however, being a protective big sister, and, one of the most driven and productive women I have ever met in life, refused to see that happen to her little sister. Soon, Leslie and her girls moved to Kansas City with Tracy and her family.
To say that Leslie began to blossom, is an understatement. It was like she had been held back for so long, and she was finally in an environment where she felt safe and surrounded by people who supported and empowered her, that she took off running. Leslie was able to attend college to earn her bachelor’s degree in accounting, and soon found an amazing job and married a wonderful man.
In 2012 Tracey and Leslie founded Foundation 4 Domestic Violence Prevention. As the foundation has grown, their mission has become clear, “by educating teens and pre-teens we can significantly reduce future incidents of every type of domestic violence.” Their solution:
“When we provide children with a foundation of self-worth, teach them how to identify values and give them the skills to set boundaries against those values, we tee them up for a great life! This requires new educational strategies to ensure that our children have an indestructible shield of self-worth to help them combat abuse.”
They work diligently every day to combat Domestic Violence, in addition to their personal careers. Every year their Foundation4DVP Clothed in Confidence Hats and Heels, fashion show, is a must attend event in Kansas City, and they continue to gain traction on implementing their domestic violence prevention curriculum into middle schools across Kansas City schools. I am so grateful for these two women and so proud to call them my cousins. Their passion for preventing domestic violence continues to amaze me and is contagious. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever goals they have for the future of the foundation, they will exceed!
If you would like to learn more about the Foundation 4 Domestic Violence Foundation, visit their website at foundation4dvp.org.