BEVERLY — Rita Ryan of A New Direction Beverly Hills Morgan Park has received Cook County’s Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Award.
Ryan is a certified domestic violence professional and legal advocate for the local crisis counseling center known throughout the neighborhood as AND. She and 18 others received the award March 3 at the Chicago Cultural Center.
“It is my hope that our agency makes working through the legal system more efficient, less intimidating, and more empowering for women seeking to separate themselves and their children from abusive relationships,” Ryan said in a written release.
“It is only through this separation that victims can move from victimhood to becoming a survivor,” she said.
Ryan has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence in the Beverly area for more than 30 years. She began her work at Rainbow House, a Beverly-based domestic violence agency.
After Rainbow House abruptly closed in 2008, Ryan helped organize and create A New Direction, which opened three years later. There, she was able to continue her work counseling victims and offering legal assistance on issues such as spousal rights, child responsibilities, child support and orders of protection.
About 90 percent of A New Direction's clients are Beverly-area residents. And Ryan has been instrumental in the development of a children’s therapy program, working closely with the group's children’s therapist.
This service and all others are offered for free at an undisclosed location, said Jessica McCarihan, president of the charity's board.
“Rita Ryan is the heart and soul of our agency. Her amazing work with victims of domestic violence is what makes our agency able to serve our community so well,” McCarihan said.
A New Direction "receives no federal or state funding and relies only on private donations and grants from businesses and the community at large. Rita Ryan’s reputation and the respect that our community has for her is an important part of our ability to garner community support,” McCarihan said.
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