A local nonprofit is making a statewide impact.
Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation, based out of Gilbert, provides resources, prevention, training and healing for survivors of abuse and their families. Jessica Nicely, a survivor of child abuse herself, founded the tax-
exempt charitable organization, which is run by volunteers, in 2013.
“A lot of programs that we offer are things I survived in my own life,” Nicely said.
Nicely, a former Miss Arizona USA, has been sharing her story and advocating against abuse for two decades but worked predominantly in prevention before launching Winged Hope.
While prevention is still a large part of what she does, the nonprofit is also involved in helping victims of abuse first-hand.
“Really, Winged Hope started because I wanted to work with family advocacy centers and start more family advocacy centers around the state,” she said. “I learned that Tempe didn’t have one; Chandler didn’t have one; Gilbert didn’t have one. So all these big cities, where I know crime is happening, didn’t have advocacy centers.”
Family advocacy centers, or FACs, are temporary shelters where victims of violent crimes can meet with the police, therapists and other agencies to tell their story and get assistance.
Winged Hope helped launch one in Chandler last summer and is working to get one started in Maricopa in February. Nicely said she is aiming to bring one to Gilbert in the next few years.
Winged Hope also renovates existing centers and ensures they have everything the survivors need, such as underwear, which sometimes is taken into evidence from the victims, leaving them without a properly fitting pair.
In addition to assisting other agencies, Winged Hope also provides direct services for survivors. And what is unique about the organization’s approach, Nicely said, is that it provides these resources, such as therapy, for the entire family.
“In the state of Arizona, victims who witness domestic violence aren’t even considered victims of a crime, and so they don’t have any resources available to them,” Nicely said.
Nicely said some days are really hard, but as someone who has been through the darkness, she is thankful to be a beacon of light to those in need.
“At the beginning, really, all I could offer was a hug, and I would cry with them,” Nicely said. “Now, after I do a training, I have resources I can provide them. I have tools I can help people with, and that’s been incredible and probably the greatest gift for me.”
Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation
929 N. Val Vista Drive, Stes. 109-167, Gilbert