Heels Together organizers traveled Hardin County on Monday, surprising finalists for its annual grant with the good news, balloons and cookies.

The three finalists are Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Services and the Hardin County Attorney’s Office.

Heels Together is a women-­led strategic initiative of the Central Ken­­tucky Comm­unity Foun­­­dation paid for by local women committed to helping other women and girls through their collective giving, along with their time and passion.

The finalists present their grant requests to the Heels Together investors at an October banquet. Investors will vote that evening for the winning grant.

ECTC Director of Grants and Con­tracts Stacy Westover said she was excited to be a finalist. She said their project is geared toward middle-school girls, getting them involved in nontraditional career paths such as automotive and welding.

“Really focus on opening the door to things they don’t really consider as options and give them experience with the local employers and some of our staff in those areas that are females,” she said.

“We know there are some really strong programs for elementary school and we know there are some really strong programs for high school, but we really wanted to focus on the middle school age and those girls as they look at career paths right before they enter high school and give them some options here locally to keep them in the community,” she added.

Silverleaf Director of Operations and Comm­unity Engagement Emily Neel said they are asking for money to provide prev­en­tion and awareness materials to all the schools in its eight-county region. Silverleaf functions as a childrens’ advocacy center and a rape crisis center.

“We are doing this big push where we take books about consent and body safety … books that normalize feelings of trauma after you’ve had them, into all the schools so their libraries can offer those books,” Neel said.

The Hardin County Attorney’s Office also is seeking to get information into the schools for youth. Victim Advocate Lauren Heavin said since 2013, domestic violence cases in the county have doubled. Of all the cases opened in 2017, she said 43 percent were female domestic assault victims.

“In seven years, we’ve doubled. Unfortunately, it continues to climb,” Hardin County Attorney Jenny Oldham said. “I think it was a brilliant idea of Lauren’s to say, ‘Hey, instead of us just addressing the proliferation and increased numbers, let’s go to the education piece and try to head off some of this … show teenagers and our younger people what a healthy relationship looks like.’”

Heavin said children who see domestic violence are more susceptible to experiencing domestic violence themselves.

“We just want to do anything that we can to prevent that,” she said, adding they are thankful to be finalists. “We are happy that they picked us to help make a change in the community.”

Heels Together started in 2014.

“I think we are fortunate to be in a community where women are reaching out to help other women with dollars,” Oldham said.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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