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SHERIDAN — Originally from Racine, Wisconsin, Yvonne Swanson currently works as a volunteer coordinator and victim advocate for the Advocacy and Resource Center in Sheridan. She originally wanted to go into law enforcement and be a cop. Instead, she’s serving victims as an advocate.
Before she completed her degree in criminal justice, Swanson married an Army man, moved to North Carolina and then Alaska. They later moved to Sheridan so that her husband could go into the diesel program at Sheridan College. He joined the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq for about 16 months. While her husband was in Iraq, Swanson went back to school, enrolling in police science.
She soon realized that she couldn’t be a police officer because her husband was deployed, she had two children at home and she was certain she would have to take the night shift when she finally became a police officer.
Instead she pursued certificates in victimization, corrections and working with youth.
“If I can’t arrest the bad guys, at least I can help the victims,” Swanson said.
Through AmeriCorps, Swanson applied for a position at the Advocacy and Resource Center. After her two weeks of answering phone calls, Swanson was brought on as a volunteer. A year later, two people left the agency, creating an opportunity for Swanson to move into a full-time position, which she has maintained for the past 10 years.
“Our crisis line has a volunteer on it every day of the month,” Advocacy and Resource Center Victim Witness Coordinator Rhonda Weber said. “The work is heartbreaking and very high stress. When nobody wants to be on our crisis line, Yvonne goes out and finds people using her connections and positive attitude. She is effective because people trust that she will help them through difficult situations. She gets them motivated and empowers them, which is a huge accomplishment because the burnout is so severe.”
Advocates at the center help victims through the criminal justice system from beginning to end. Sometimes the support continues for several years, especially in felony cases. The advocates keep in contact with those victims over the years, providing ongoing empowerment and support.
“I still get to do pretty much everything I wanted to, I just don’t get the car with the lights and the gun,” Swanson grinned.
According to Weber, Swanson has been able to take the advocacy movement to the next level. Because she has raised teenagers and has a bubbly, outgoing personality, she has been able to reach people, especially younger generations. The center also works toward prevention, teaching what red flags look like in relationships as well as what healthy relationships can be.
“Because we do see some horrible stuff I’ve been doing cross-fit for over five years, which is definitely a stress reliever,” Swanson said. “Also, I have amazing friends that I can talk to and communicate with that are very up-lifting. I like to ride my motorcycle and I have an amazing group of motorcycle friends.”
Swanson is the organizer for “Bikers Against Bruises” fundraising poker runs in Sheridan because it is a fun way to bring awareness to the public. She has also been a Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador for more than two and a half years, participating in ribbon cuttings and other events. She’s also a graduate of the 2015 Leadership Sheridan County program.
“Yvonne is just a huge inspiration to me as a mother and as an advocate because she is willing to take on a lot of responsibility and is super positive about it all the time,” Weber said. “I feed off of that. That is what I love about her. Anything she wants to do, she does. She’s on the Chamber and she is raising two respectful, incredible boys pretty much by herself because her husband works on the road.”
Swanson is also a hockey mom who taxis her two boys, who are in junior high and high school, to hockey practices and events. She promotes volunteering with her boys as well.
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