Amy Andress' life motto is modeled after Genesis 50:20. "Even though people want to harm you, God will take what happened to you and turn it into good so that you can help others with what you learned," she says. "There is a purpose for everything that you go through."
Andress, 40, the domestic-abuse intervention program coordinator at the Center for Violence Prevention, holds this idea close to her heart--for good reason. She moved to the Jackson metro area with her three children in 2005 to be closer to family and friends after divorcing her abusive husband whom she left far behind in
"I'm not a victim. I went through this, but I also overcame it. I am a productive human being, and that's the person I want people to know," she says.
A native of Columbus, Miss., Andress' only aspiration after graduating from New Hope High School was to be a loving mother and housewife. Family members urged her to have something else to fall back on, however, so she earned a bachelor's and then, in 2002, a master's degree in education from Mississippi State University. She has since taught students ranging from kindergartners to adults.
Andress quit teaching before leaving Tennessee to get a new start. After moving back to Mississippi, she took her experiences and turned them into her life's calling. She began working at the Center for Violence Prevention in August 2009, where her overwhelming personal energy drives her to educate and assist women and families on a daily basis.
A typical day for Andress includes placing domestic-violence perpetrators into the center's batterer's intervention program, establishing orders of protection with victims of domestic violence and facilitating services for victims, whether it be counseling, crisis referral or additional court advocacy. She works out of seven courts in Rankin County alone, in addition to courts in Hinds and Madison counties. Her inability to be everywhere at once is probably the only bad thing about her job, she says.
Outside court, Andress tries to help out at the center in any way she can, whether it be organizing the on-site store or transporting clients to various appointments.
"I'd even mow the lawn if they asked me to; this is where my heart is," she says with a laugh.
While some may think Andress works a thankless job, she receives plenty of gratitude from the people she helps: "I know I've done my job when I receive a hug from someone I've helped or when someone says 'thanks' because they couldn't have done this without me."