Three women pushed into activism by tragedy
It was a senseless act of domestic violence that gave Karen Kuykendall Nordsick, Alecia Armold and Becky Schrum the determination to fight a scourge as old as humankind.
On May 29, Martin Kepner murdered Nordsick's sister, 53-year-old Laurie Kuykendall Kepner, and Armold's and Schrum's mother, 55-year-old Barb Schrum, in the yard of his Wellsville-area home as the women tried to retrieve some of Laurie's belongings. Kepner, Laurie's 60-year-old estranged husband, then committed suicide.
Armold started agitating for change soon after the death of her mother, who owned and ran the Shoppe American Made store in Dover, by posting a petition at change.org to make using a lethality assessment program mandatory for all Pennsylvania police departments. The program — already being used by a number of police departments in York County — provides officers with 11 questions to ask a suspected domestic-abuse victim that help gauge whether the person is at risk of being killed by an intimate partner.
Choosing hope: Armold and Becky Schrum have started a nonprofit organization called The Hope Shoppe, which works with existing agencies, such as Access-York and Safe Home Hanover, to give local domestic-violence victims the financial help they need to leave their abusers.
The sisters also met with elected officials in the state House and Senate to advocate for the lethality assessment program as well as to raise awareness about the fact that law enforcement in York County won't do escorts, called "standbys," for domestic-violence victims who are retrieving belongings from their former homes but who don't have protection-from-abuse orders.
Both are issues that now consume Nordsick as well, and she too has met with local legislators. Nordsick said she wants the lethality assessment program made mandatory in Pennsylvania and would like to see it named after Laurie and Barb.
Nordsick is shouldering responsibilities her sister would not have wished on her, including taking part in an upcoming ceremony Tuesday at the state Capitol hosted by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence to honor domestic-related murder victims across Pennsylvania. Armold is the keynote speaker for the event.
Volunteer advocate: Nordsick is training to be a volunteer advocate with Access-York, attended a recent meeting of the York County Task Force on Domestic Violence and is planning a golfing fundraiser for next spring to raise money for local organizations that help victims of domestic violence, she said.
She donated Laurie's clothing and furniture to help domestic violence victims, sent five cellphones to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and is arranging for a memorial brick engraved with her animal- loving sister's name to be displayed at the York County SPCA.
"I don't want any other sister to go through what I went through," Nordsick said. "I feel it's important to keep awareness (about domestic violence) alive. It's painful, but I want to help people. ... This is a problem no one wants to talk about, but it's happening everywhere."
Armold said The Hope Shoppe is planning a bowling fundraiser on Jan. 16 and also is planning to sponsor three to five families as part of the YWCA of York's adopt-a-family holiday program. Check for updates at thehopeshoppe.org.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.