New chief: Hopeline expanding services

Dwight Decoskey Albemarle Hopeline Director

By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Albemarle Hopeline is refocusing its counselors on helping victims, expanding its crisis response team, and working on a new job training program, the nonprofit's new director told Pasquotank County commissioners this week.

Dwight Decoskey, who took over as director in June, said he’s pursuing several different projects to improve and expand Hopeline, the organization that works to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault in six counties. The former military contractor also said he’s also taking on more of Hopeline's managerial and business tasks so other staff can focus on serving victims.

“I bring a business background to it,” Decoskey. “I'm coming in with what I call 'Hopeline 2.0,' and it is actually adding some business processes and, a little different flavor to it …. The number one focus is: counselors are going to do counseling. The difference is, now counselors aren't also going to be running the business side of the organization. I'm going to be doing that.”

Decoskey also said he's interviewing additional counselors and getting more training for current counselors, with the aim of providing comprehensive services to victims who may face not only domestic violence, but substance abuse issues.

Decoskey also said he's working with Vidant Health to expand Hopeline's Sexual Assault Response Team into Chowan County. The team currently only operates in Pasquotank and Camden counties, where it relies on partnership with area law enforcement.

As someone with a security background, Decoskey also said he wants to ensure Hopeline has the most secure shelter possible. He said he's pursuing private grants to add cameras and other security features to the shelter that must protect victims from further assaults.

Decoskey also discussed Hopeline's Clothesline Thrift Store in Elizabeth City. He revealed the store has been losing money, but is trending back to becoming a revenue source for Hopeline.

“There was a big push to make it a 'thriftique,' a real fancy store; that didn't work,” Decoskey said. “We were losing money; now we're back to being good.”

Decoskey said the thrift store is important to families with limited incomes who need clothing for themselves and their children. He noted Hopeline tried to serve families and promote the store with a recent back-to-school backpack giveaway.

The thrift store will also be important to Hopeline's efforts to help victims who are unemployed or underemployed, he continued. Under Hopeline's “Power to Improve Program,” Decoskey said he envisions victims working in the store to gain work experience that will get other employers to hire them.

Decoskey also said the Power to Improve Program helps victims, if needed, to finish high school or get their GED diploma, and enroll in college.

Decoskey also explained community outreach and education remain vital to Hopeline's mission. The agency welcomes invitations to present information to churches, civic groups and others, and it teaches against bullying and teen dating violence in local schools, he said.

During Monday’s meeting, Board of Commissioners Chairman Cecil Perry also asked Decoskey if Hurricane Florence had driven more people to seek shelter with Hopeline.

“We haven't seen an immediate impact of this storm,” Decoskey said, adding Hopeline briefly closed the shelter and found alternate housing for its clients.

In a lighter moment, Decoskey acknowledged his background as a military contractor — including working for the private military company once known as Blackwater — seemed an odd fit for a nonprofit dedicated to counseling and shelter.

“Day one, when I showed up, everyone expected me to have the Rambo facepaint on,” Decoskey joked.

But coming to Hopeline gave him another way to help and protect people, he added.

Hopeline also operates a 24-hours-a-day crisis hotline that can be reached at 338-3011.