Shelter worker receives Liberty Bell award

As the fax came through, Jill Collins Brown’s initial reaction was to cry.
The 2000 Oxford High School graduate was expecting to see a police report or a referral to come through but instead it was a letter from Dawn Schumacher, President of the Huron County Bar Association and Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Brown had won the Liberty Bell.
‘I was shocked and honored,? she said after receiving the news on April 13. ‘It’s an honor and a priviledge.?
The Liberty Bell Award is given each year by local bar associations in conjunction with Law Day to honor outstanding citizens within the local community.
The award recognizes outstanding service performed by a non-lawyer citizen who has given of his or her time and energy to strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of freedom under law, in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution.
Brown is a shelter operations manager and legal advocate for SafePlace, a domestic abuse shelter in Bad Axe. Besides handling day-to-day operations and staffing, she helps victims by educating them, helping them come up with a safety plan and guiding them through the legal process.
While guiding them through the process, she explains the criminal and civil process and helps them to get a personal protection order.
‘It acts as a restraining order and they are hard to get,? she explained. ‘Some people want to get the PPO first instead of changing phone numbers or routines.?
She works from referrals. Police officers will hand out SafePlace business cards when they are at a scene of a domestic dispute or they will get them from prosecutor reports.
‘I enjoy being a legal advocate,? she added. ‘You never know what to expect – just when you thought you heard it all, you hear something new.?
She has been in the field for three years.
‘I knew in college I wanted to help,? she said.
At the time she was studying criminal justice at Ferris State University when she wanted to know the motives behind people’s actions so she got a BA in psychology at Oakland University.
Brown was nominated for the Liberty Bell by Elizabeth Weisenbach a local attorney that Brown has handled domestic cases with since 2002.
Schumacher presented the award to Brown at the annual Law Day luncheon on May 1.
Brown is a member of the American Criminal Justice Association, also known as Lambda Alpha Epsilon and is affiliated with Ferris State’s Beta Kappa Rho chapter.
Her parents Sue and Russ Collins reside in Oxford.