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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a unifying symbol of courage, survival, and dedication to ending domestic violence. It is also a time to further the public’s awareness and education of the number of people impacted each year by domestic violence.
More than 12 million Americans per year are affected by intimate partner violence. In Indiana, 42.5% of women and 27.9% of men are impacted by intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. Further, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reports that domestic violence cases increased by 25%-33% globally in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These statistics demonstrate that more services, resources, and support are needed to make a difference in the life of survivors.
In some situations, cell phones are used to exercise coercive control over partners by tracking their whereabouts, accessing their calls and texts without permission, and preventing communication with loved ones. Fishers-based nonprofit More Than a Phone is working to ensure survivors of domestic violence have access to cell phones and data service plans so that they can stay connected to loved ones, law enforcement, and their children’s schools.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, More Than a Phone will host its annual “More Than a Tailgate” fundraising event, and Indy Maven spoke with the nonprofit’s Executive Director, Julie Moorehead, to find out more about the event and organization.
For someone who might not know, can you explain what More Than a Phone is and its mission?
More Than a Phone is a nonprofit that partners with domestic violence shelters across the U.S. to provide smartphones and data service plans to the survivors they serve. Today, we work with 73 shelters nationwide, including 17 in Indiana. Our Hoosier-based shelter partners include Coburn Place and The Julian Center in Indianapolis, Prevail of Noblesville, Alternatives Inc. of Anderson, and more.
Our mission stemmed from TCC, an authorized Verizon retailer, that wanted to do more to serve the community. The relationships from that space allowed us to start our program by receiving gifts of new smart phones from our business partners and utilizing TCC’s call center for data service. Employees from the retailer also provide a ton of valuable support to our program. We also partner with the stores, other businesses, and individuals to gather donated phones, which are recycled and turned into monetary support. More Than a Phone assembles packages that include 40 Verizon 5G LTE smartphones, home chargers, a smartphone setup guide, unlimited calling and texting for four months, and five gigabytes of data per month for four months. Our nonprofit partners then distribute the phone packages to survivors in need to help them stay connected.
As modern-day necessities, phones and data services give survivors a means to communicate with family and friends as they begin a new chapter in their lives. The phones are often used to research job opportunities, contact legal representation, reach out to children’s schools, and more. Through volunteerism and victim advocacy, More Than a Phone’s goal is to cultivate community across the U.S. and give domestic violence survivors more than just a phone, but a sense of freedom and independence.
Since our founding in 2017, More Than a Phone has provided over 5,800 smartphones and 23,000 months of service to survivors of its participant shelters.
How and why did you become involved with More Than a Phone?
More Than a Phone was created by the employees at the company TCC. My husband Scott and I own the company, and we became very intentional about our giving in 2016. I was at the IU Lilly School of Philanthropy in the master’s program at the time, so I was directly plugging in what I was learning to our formal giving programs. We created a grant-making non-profit foundation that is very charitable in the cities and regions we do business in, but we also wanted a program that matched everyone’s passions, not just our own.
We couldn’t make any of this giving possible without the company’s success, and that is reliant on each employee. Our employees were challenged with coming up with the program at a sales rally; we launched it as a “big idea.” Soon, I was getting emails from many of our passionate employees, and the idea of More Than a Phone sprouted from that. We love that it tied in what we do as a wireless retail company. We decided to start this program in the domestic violence space, but our vision has always been larger, and we hope to gain more financial support to help more survivors in the future.
More Than a Phone is hosting a fundraising event on Sunday, Oct. 2; can you tell us more about it?
More Than a Tailgate is our annual fundraiser, taking place this year on Sunday, Oct. 2, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Crane Bay Event Center in downtown Indianapolis ahead of the Colts-Titans game at nearby Lucas Oil Stadium. Those who attend will enjoy tailgate-inspired food and drinks, outdoor games, and live music from the Cool City Band during a family-friendly tailgate. Live and silent auctions will take place throughout the event, which will include several getaways and a black opal necklace.
Not only will our guests enjoy a tailgating experience that is synonymous with football season, they’ll also be tailgating in support of our organization and domestic violence survivors across the Indianapolis community and nationwide. All event proceeds will benefit More Than a Phone. Last year’s More Than a Tailgate event raised nearly $130,000 to help survivors at shelters across Indiana and the U.S.
We have a variety of ticket options for those who attend the tailgate, as well as virtual options for those unable to be there in person. Event tickets can be purchased by visiting www.morethanaphone.org/more-than-a-tailgate.
What can Indy Maven readers do to help support More Than a Phone?
First, we’d love to see Indy Maven’s readers at More Than a Tailgate on Oct. 2! We appreciate any support to further our cause, whether it’s individually or as a business. We also aim to educate on the prevalence and harm of domestic and sexual violence. Regardless of whether or not you give today, we hope you can spread awareness and speak up to help eradicate all forms of violence.
Opportunities to support our organization include:
1. Individual monetary donations. We accept one-time or recurring donations. Donations to the program go towards data service for survivors, our largest monetary need. For context:
- $5 per month or $60 per year will support a survivor by providing one and a half months of data service, including Internet, talk and text.
- $10 per month or $120 per year will support a survivor by providing three months of data service, including Internet, talk and text.
- $20 per month or $240 per year will support a survivor by providing six months of data service, including Internet, talk and text.
2. Device donations. We always accept used phone donations in any condition. Donated phones are recycled and turned into a monetary donation. TCC stores nationwide accept donations for More Than a Phone. Find your closest store to donate a phone now. You can also host a phone drive to benefit the program! See our website for more details.
3. Becoming a Community Partner. Provide ongoing support at a larger level by becoming a Community Partner. Community Partners provide the funding to bring More Than a Phone to a new community or to sustain an existing program for another year. Businesses make great Community Partners; however, it is also available to individuals who want to give on a larger scale. Community Partners also have the option to team up together to support a single community.
4. Introducing the monthly giving program at your business. Your employees will be able to give an auto donation to support More Than a Phone. We suggest $5 per month, but they can choose any amount to donate.
5. Sponsoring an event. Become a corporate sponsor for one of our events, like More Than a Tailgate. We have several different sponsorship levels to choose from, and all include event tickets. Promote your business while benefiting a great cause!
All of these options and more can be found on www.morethanaphone.org/ways-to-give.
What are your future goals for the organization?
Eventually, we want to expand to support individuals outside of domestic violence survivors. Our ultimate goal is to help provide access and a means of connection to those who need it most. But we rely on support from businesses and individual contributors to keep our mission going. We appreciate our supporters who have helped us get to this point and look forward to growing our reach by finding more people and businesses who want to assist our cause.
Stephanie Groves is the Executive Editor of Indy Maven.