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CSA Finalist: Mary Anne Benson

A victim of spousal abuse herself turns volunteer to help others.
"Mary Anne Benson beats me to work most mornings. uh, she's here, usually one of the first to arrive and the last to leave. She really and truly has a heart for each and every client that she serves," says Paulette Hill, Executive Director of Serenith Shelter in Mountain Home.

To Mary Anne Benson, herself a survivor of spousal abuse and now happily married, a 40-hour week is the norm as a volunteer advocate for abused women at Serenity of Mountain Home.

"I've seen girls who have never been touched and I've seen girls that have been beaten beyond recognition," she says. "Sometimes I have two or three court days and I may spend, especially in Judge Womack's court, I've been here til 9 o'clock at night before because that's just the way he runs."

"Well, I think for them she really brings a calming presence by coming to court, by working with them outside of court, she helps to steady their nerves, to help them understand what the process is going to be," says Judge Shawn A. Womack with the 14th Judicial Circuit Court, Division 1.

"In the last three and a-half years that I've really been concentrating on thhe legal system here and going through the court and working with the judges and the court I have tried to make it a mission to let them know that we want to work with them," Benson says.

"She's pretty tireless, she just keeps going. I remember a major hearing we had in the case, and I think we finished at like 9:20, or 9:40 at night, when Judge Womack finally told us to go home," says Frank J. Huckaba, a Mountain Home attorney.
 
"Sometimes they come in and, a client may come in and fall apart at her desk up there," Hill says.

"Everybody here supports me 100-percent, they treat me the same as they treat each other and I'll be doin' it 'til I can't do it any more," Benson says.

And the Serenity staff hopes that will be for a long time.

Mary Anne Benson is our final finalist for one of six Community Service Awards in the individual category.

The awards in all categories will be presented in ceremonies on July 20 at UCA in Conway.
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