Name: Amanda Knoener

Hometown: Howards Grove, Wis.

Title: Services and shelter coordinator

Business: Safe Harbor of Sheboygan County

Amanda has seen devastating pain and deep despair. But she’s also witnessed incredible courage, resiliency and strength.

“I hear it a lot: ‘Your job must be hard,’” says Amanda. “But it’s one of those jobs you get true fulfillment from, knowing you’re making a difference in people’s lives. Some days are tough. Some clients are difficult to work with or not ready to make the commitment. Some have alcohol or drug addiction; they turn to these things to mask the trauma in their lives. But others are ready. You veer them onto the right path, and they go forward toward a better life. That’s very rewarding.”

Safe Harbor is a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. The nonprofit organization provides prevention education, crisis intervention and outreach services to victims and their families. Amanda’s job is multi-faceted. She coordinates the occupancy of Safe Harbor’s eight rooms, handles case management, guides victims through court proceedings (child support, divorce, criminal charges against abusers) and helps them find apartments and prepare for job interviews, among other duties.

“I’m not here to tell victims to leave, get a divorce or anything like that,” says Amanda, a 2011 Lakeland grad who double-majored in criminal justice and psychology. “We’re here to educate and provide a safe place. Statistics show that a victim will leave an abuser seven times before leaving for good. We want them to know they can come back to us at any time.”

Amanda, who says she’s always been “more of a giver than a taker,” arrived at Lakeland not knowing what her career path would be. She took an introduction to criminal justice class, loved it and stayed on that track.

She felt comfortable at Lakeland because “the students were nice and generous and the professors knew exactly who you were. They care about you. You’re not just a student to them.”

Amanda strives to treat those who seek refuge at Safe Harbor with that same warmth.

“They come in crying, upset, totally broken,” Amanda says. “Some come in with bruises, battered. You hold their hands through it all. You don’t want to see them fall, but sometimes they do, so you help them get back up. Then you see them get excited about a job interview or finding an apartment, and it’s like when your kids take their first step. You just want to start cheering.”