Amber Keith-Drowns is a victim services coordinator working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s Crisis Intervention/Domestic Violence Services unit, and this week’s WCHL Hometown Hero!

“Amber has been in her position with the Sheriff’s Office for about 16 years now,” said Kait Hajarr, Director of Court Advocacy and Community Response for the Compass Center. “In the world of victim advocacy, that is a lifetime.”

Keith-Drowns’ extensive experience working with victims of domestic violence and those in need has allowed her to pass on her knowledge to people new in the field.

“When I first met Amber, I was a volunteer with the Compass Center,” said Hajarr. “Amber had provided training to every single one of our volunteers that provide advocacy on our hotline and in our office for years and years. She definitely made an impression, because it’s heavy stuff. I actually had very little experience in the court system, and Amber was my guide and mentor.”

According to Sheriff Charles Blackwood, who nominated Keith-Drowns for this Hometown Hero award, “her work is never-ending and often thankless,” but Keith-Drowns hasn’t let that stop her from sticking with a career choice that is intimidating at the best of times.

“She is a unique and incomparable person in the domestic violence services world,” said Beth Posner, a clinical assistant professor of law at UNC who primarily focuses on domestic violence, sexual assault and related family law and immigration issues. “She is patient, compassionate, with empathy and the highest degree of professionalism. She’s a shining moral compass. Amber makes victims feel safe and empowered.”

That feeling of safety empowerment comes from a sense of comfort and caring, attributes that anyone wishing to work with and truly help victims of domestic violence needs. Keith-Drowns specializes in those victimized by family members and intimate partners, working closely with both local victims in the care of the OCSO and those referred from other law enforcement agencies.

“I remember when I was relatively new, assisting a client with a domestic violence protective order from the hospital,” said Hajarr. “I let Amber know what was going on, with the client’s permission, and Amber’s first question was ‘Does she need anything? Can I run to the store to grab her clothes? Grab some toiletries? Can I get her anything to make her more comfortable during this really terrible time she’s going through?’ That’s just really rare, to find a person that goes there for people they don’t know. It’s just natural for her to offer compassion and support. That’s just who she is.”