WEAVE leader celebrates 25 years helping others
By Jessica Laskey
“A quarter of a century. Makes a girl think.” –Marilyn Monroe as Sugar in “Some Like It Hot.”
Beth Hassett has been thinking a lot lately. The chief executive of WEAVE is celebrating her 25th year at the nonprofit that provides crisis intervention for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in Sacramento County.
The milestone has Hassett looking back to where she started. And she’s looking ahead with the organization she’s served since 1995.
“Twenty-five years ago… I walked through the doors of WEAVE as the special events coordinator and the agency’s 278th employee,” Hassett writes in an email to the community. “I know now, I was—and remain—drawn to a complex combination of wanting to support that individual survivor; the urge to lead a team of compassionate, caring staff and volunteers to realize our agency’s mission; and a drive to make the world a more equitable and safe place for all people.”
Hassett didn’t intend to spend her career in the nonprofit universe. She studied finance at the University of Utah. After college, Hassett and her husband decided to attend graduate school for theater. Hassett’s parents were in show business and she grew up performing.
She planned to combine her interests and raise money for the arts. Instead, she ended up getting “a taste of working with the media” as publicity director for the school theater department. The experience changed her trajectory.
“Part of my challenge with the finance field is the juxtaposition between how to ethically raise money to operate a business while looking at it through the lens of (philosophers) like Kant and Mill of using people to get ahead,” Hassett says. “I was very drawn to the idea of working for an organization that worked with very difficult issues, but also the inequity of gender and race.”
While working fulltime in fundraising for WEAVE, Hassett volunteered for its crisis line and as a sexual assault responder. She sat with survivors as they underwent medical tests at UC Davis Medical Center. Coupled with the death of her mother, the experience was too much.
Hassett left and served in senior management positions with Capital Public Radio and the Mercy Foundation before WEAVE beckoned her back—this time as executive director.
Over the last 15 years, Hassett’s job morphed from executive director to CEO as the organization grew in size and complexity. She oversees a $10 million budget and hundreds of staff, including advocates, counselors and educators, and volunteers. The pandemic only complicated matters, forcing the organization to pivot in unforeseen ways.
“When the shelter-in-place orders first hit, we saw a decline in people reaching out because they weren’t comfortable leaving and the shelters had stopped taking new people,” Hassett says. “By July, the calls to our legal line had doubled as people looked for legal solutions (such as restraining orders) to stay safe.”
In March, WEAVE launched an online chat function so people wouldn’t have to talk on the phone, which Hassett calls a “lifesaver.” They also introduced the telemedicine platform Doxy, which allows WEAVE to serve counseling clients remotely—a practice that will likely continue after the pandemic.
This year, Hassett wants to reframe what WEAVE means. She and others felt the original acronym, Women Escaping a Violent Environment, was too gendered for an organization that also serves men and nonbinary people. When a young boy came up with a new basis for the abbreviation—When Everyone Acts, Violence Ends—it sounded like a perfect fit.
“In 2021, we’re focusing on what people can do to help end violence,” Hassett says. “Educating yourself about what leads to violent acts, intervening when you see somebody behaving badly, donating clothes to our thrift stores, donating money. I like the positivity of (the new name). It shows that we all have a role—even if we don’t think we’ve been touched by it, we have.”
For more information, visit weaveinc.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.