MONTICELLO — Michelle Jett of Champaign learned quite a bit during her seven years in the retail industry, including that money isn't everything.
The new executive director of Neighbor House, a domestic-violence shelter in Monticello, said her passion for helping people dates back to a five-year stint with Rape Crisis Services and A Woman's Place that took place shortly after she graduated from Champaign Centennial High School.
Even though that was several years ago, Jett said she has longed to get back into that line of work.
"I just missed the aspect of doing a job more because you like the job than the pay — going home every day and feeling like you've done something to contribute to your community," said Jett, who started last month at the Piatt County shelter sponsored by Willow Tree Missions.
She replaces Kimberley Boyd, who resigned late last year.
"I really wanted to go back to this field, so when this job was open it was pretty much a perfect fit," added Jett.
Suzanne Wells, president of the Willow Tree Missions board of directors, agreed.
"We had some fabulous applicants," said Wells. "She (Jett) has specific experience in a domestic-violence shelter and that was important for us, especially for a new shelter."
Neighbor House opened in March 2012.
Wells said Jett's background managing a retail operation gave her strong organizational skills, and that her training in counseling sexual assault victims also gave her an edge over other candidates.
Public service also runs in Jett's family, with firefighters, paramedics and nurses commonplace among her relatives.
Neighbor House provides emergency housing for those in an abusive relationship, and Jett said having a shelter in a smaller town such as Monticello is a real plus. She commented that quality services are available in Champaign and Decatur, but that it is sometimes helpful for those trying to leave abuse relationships to keep a little bit of home with them.
"It's asking a lot for someone to leave the entire area to relocate their lives and kids, so to have a shelter here, where you can make changes and not completely walk away from your life makes a big difference," she said.
Jett also hopes to raise awareness on domestic violence, which statistics show affect about one in four women sometime during their lives.
"We as a community need to address that, and step one is to start talking about it. The fact there is a shelter in town gets that conversation going."
Neighbor House operates a 24-hour hot line at 217-631-1111. It can also be reached by email at email@example.com .
For those wishing to volunteer for the local agency, a 40-hour training session is scheduled for March. To register, call Jett at 217-631-1018.