Sophie Panigirakis: Westfield Local Heroes 2018

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Sophie Panigirakis: Westfield Local Heroes 2018

Marketing executive Sophie finds most rewarding role of her life

The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has enabled Bayside Women's Shelter to give new life to the shelter with cosmetic, safety and accessibility upgrades.

Bayside Women's Shelter provides transitional accommodation to women and their children who are homeless and leaving domestic and family violence. They have provided safe accommodation for up to three months to 3 women and 7 children from the beginning of their opening date pre Christmas. These families are in crisis and the shelter has given them an opportunity to recover and consider their next steps. The shelter provides access to financial, legal, counselling and employment support services.

Shelter staff are on-site 24 hours to provide support and assistance as needed. The shelter provides case management where the team support women to attend doctor and counsellor appointments, as well as help navigate government bureaucracy such as Centrelink, Medicare, Housing, police and legal structures.

Sophie Panigirakis had a high-flying marketing job, but she always got the biggest buzz out of the philanthropy work she did for her company.

She says supporting women and children who are left homeless by domestic violence has become “a way of life, of sorts”.

That might be an understatement. As chair of the marketing committee, she has been working until all hours, engaging with council, the media and the local community. She is also responsible for all marketing material and the shelter’s website.

Many see Sophie as the glue that holds the project team together and her willingness to devote time and energy to the shelter has gone way beyond what is expected of her.

But Sophie’s loving her role.

“This is the most rewarding thing in my life, other than my family of course,” she says.

“I am passionate about working to empower women and promote harmony in our multicultural community.”

As part of her philanthropy work, Sophie has been particularly touched by a mother-of-two who survived family violence but lost her home.

Like Sophie, the woman had been in a corporate job but escaping the violence meant she had to sleep in her car.

She asks: “How many thousands of women have feared for their lives, changed jobs and taken their kids from the place they call home in the middle of the night to find safety?”

Sophie says she is honoured to be a Westfield Local Hero as it will increase awareness of domestic violence.

But she is grateful to have the support of her family so she can devote her time to community work, which she plans to continue for the rest of her life.

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.

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