Shortly after Dianne Bentley’s husband, Robert Bentley, was elected governor of Alabama in 2010, the First Lady had the opportunity to meet two women who shared a rare bond – both had been victims of domestic violence and both had taken matters into their own hands.
Their stories tugged at the heart of Bentley, a mother of four sons and grandmother of seven girls, who says she’s been blessed with good family relationships her whole life.
“What struck me as tragic was that these women had no idea what resources were available to help them escape their abusive relationships,” Bentley said. “Their stories inspired me to get involved in domestic violence awareness and prevention as one of my key initiatives as First Lady of Alabama. I want to help raise support for domestic violence resources, and I want to make sure that the people who need these resources know they are available.”
Since Bentley first announced her support of domestic violence awareness and prevention in October of 2011, she quickly became a champion of the cause. She has spoken to high school students, participated in sorority initiatives and delivered blankets to shelters through her relationship with Alabama quilting guilds. This year, the First Lady kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the first-ever candlelight vigil at the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, bringing together advocates, law enforcement officials and non-profit groups from across the state.to help them escape their abusive relationships,” Bentley said. “Their stories inspired me to get involved in domestic violence awareness and prevention as one of my key initiatives as First Lady of Alabama. I want to help raise support for domestic violence resources, and I want to make sure that the people who need these resources know they are available.”
Bentley has also teamed with HopeLine from Verizon to help collect more than 7,000 no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories for the program. Wireless phones given to HopeLine are refurbished and reused. HopeLine in turn provides cash grants and refurbished phones – complete with 3,000 minutes of wireless service and text messaging service – to local domestic violence agencies or local government and law enforcement agencies for use with their domestic violence clients.
A large portion of the 7,000 phones came as a result of a phone drive challenge the First Lady issued to the Governor’s cabinet members in 2012, which resulted in a call and donation from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). Since then, the ADOC has donated all phones confiscated at Alabama prisons to HopeLine.
In addition, Bentley has recorded public service announcements for both TV and radio to support HopeLine.
“HopeLine offers people a simple way to get involved and support victims,” Bentley said. “Most people have an old cell phone or two sitting in a drawer somewhere.”
Verizon named Bentley a HopeLine Hero in 2012 for her work to bring attention to domestic violence. At the recent candlelight vigil she hosted, the company announced the establishment of “First Lady Dianne Bentley Champion for the Cause Award,” an annual HopeLine grant to be presented each October to an Alabama non-profit organization doing innovative work around the cause of domestic violence awareness.