Each year, at our Annual Benefit, Sanctuary for Families celebrates individuals who have shown time and again, their commitment to ending gender-based violence. This year we are honoring Laura Mannix Spring, Director of Studio Services at Barneys New York and Co-Chair of the Barneys New York Foundation.
Sanctuary will present Laura with the Zero Tolerance Award for her long involvement with the Mother’s Council, the work she has done to build a partnership between Barneys and Sanctuary, and her passion for supporting gender violence survivors.
Laura is well-known for her expertise across multiple areas, from retail sales to community advocacy and development. Since taking on her current role in 1995, she has turned Studio Services into the premier sales area for Barneys New York.
Laura is an outstanding community advocate and philanthropist. Her charities include The Kevin Frawley Foundation, a scholarship on behalf of a close friend who perished on September 11th, and The Nick Traina Foundation, which fights for awareness of mental illness. Laura has also demonstrated her serious commitment to the revitalization of Yonkers, her hometown — She does tireless fundraising for St. Joseph School in Bronxville, is involved with various local businesses, and has served on many committees and boards of the Amackassin Club.
A LONG-STANDING ALLY
Laura has been a part of the Sanctuary family for over a decade. In a recent interview, she told us about how she first learned about Sanctuary and discussed the reasons for which she is so passionate about our work with survivors of gender-based violence.
Laura was introduced to the organization by her friends Catherine Shanahan and Stephanie Ferdman, who invited her to attend a Mother’s Council breakfast. Laura vividly recalls the impact that the speaker’s testimony had on her that morning – “His name was Paul, and he was there to represent his sister who couldn’t be there because she was murdered in front of her three children by her abuser.” Being a new mother herself, Laura could not believe that this could happen to someone:
“I was so profoundly moved and thought to myself ‘This is something that needs to change.'”
Is there any particular program or project at Sanctuary that you are most passionate about?
I am definitely moved and inspired by Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program [EEP] and the impact that it has across generations. It has inspired me to advocate for more opportunities within businesses and companies for women who have been traumatized, women who are raising children and teaching them what it means to be strong, what it means to be a warrior.
I think EEP’s impact is two-fold: It provides survivors with the technical skills needed to secure career-track jobs and build the financial resources that are so essential to families that have suffered from violence. It also gives survivors a whole new level of confidence and satisfaction, making them feel viable and capable of lending themselves to greater things, of changing the direction of their children’s lives for the better.
My favorite events are, obviously, the EEP graduation ceremonies. Harvard valedictorians have nothing on our graduates, nothing. They are unbelievable. They are a force, and so is Sanctuary.
What changes would you like to see in how we, as a society, address gender-based violence?
I’d like to see it be less stigmatized and to have more opportunities for survivors to speak out as soon as they begin to experience abuse. We need to reach out to communities and talk about these issues in our companies, in our families, because isolation is one of the biggest problems when it comes to domestic violence.
I also think there is little awareness of the barriers that survivors face. Leaving their abusers is simply the first step in an arduous journey – Here you are, jumping from a traumatizing situation into another daunting, uphill battle, and it seems like you might never reach the top.
Finally, we need to improve the services available to child survivors of violence. Although they have been traumatized at such a young age, hopefully, with the right treatment, they will be able to alter the course of their lives and become empowered. It is especially vital for them to understand that they are not deserving of such violence, that they are not to blame for what they have had to endure.
The theme for this year’s Annual Benefit is #WeAreSanctuary. What does being a part of Sanctuary mean to you?
What I love most about Sanctuary is that it recognizes the individual challenges faced by each survivor and addresses them accordingly – I have never been a part of an organization that was so hands-on in adapting every one of its services to fit their clients’ specific needs. #WeAreSanctuary means being a part of this community of empowered, smart, and incredible individuals who are committed to serving anyone who crosses its threshold. #WeAreSanctuary captures that passion that I have yet to see anywhere else.
To purchase tickets to our 2019 Annual Benefit, click here.