Small Town with a Big Heart: How I Met an Unsung Hero


A few weeks ago, I traveled from my home in Boston to attend a conference in Delavan, Wisconsin, a small town about an hour southwest of Milwaukee.

As I was walking around downtown to grab lunch before I left for the airport to come home, I passed a little storefront called Neki’s Hope. Both a shop and a café, what caught my eye was a little sign in the window that said 10% of all their sales go toward domestic violence programs. I decided to stop in the little shop and see if anyone could tell me about the domestic violence services in the area.


That’s when I met the owner, Mary Pagoudis, at the front counter. I told Mary I wanted to give my appreciation of the shop’s support of domestic violence work. When I told her that I worked for Futures Without Violence, she excitedly said, “That’s one of the organizations that I donate to! I just got a thank you letter from (founder-president) Esta Soler.”


Mary shared with me that domestic violence is an issue that’s important to her, and donations are a way to help the cause. She showed me the little display of domestic violence resources that she keeps behind that counter and told me about the DV awareness flag that she flies outside.

As I looked around, I saw other signs of her work – handmade signs, awareness bracelets, and books about domestic violence recovery on her shelf. She told me how when people see her flag, materials, and commitment to ending domestic violence, many feel comfortable sharing their own experiences with her.

Talking to Mary, I was filled with such appreciation for the work she is doing and the calling she has to help others. I can only imagine what a resource she is in this small town in Wisconsin, and I felt honored that she chooses to donate to us. In short, stopping in her shop had made my month.

With all that is going on in our country right now, it raised my spirits to spend some time with an unsung hero in this work. Thank you, Mary, for all you do to end violence against women, men, and children! We couldn’t do what we do without advocates like you.