Recognizing Dianna Scotece: A Pillars of Change Honoree

For creating the first survivor-led and trauma-informed strength training program, and raising funds for Sanctuary through her “Women of Iron” event.

Over the past year, Dianna has worked alongside Sanctuary for Families’ Survivor Leaders to create the first trauma-informed, strength training program -an innovative treatment modality focused on healing from trauma. When the program started, the goal was to see whether strength training and weightlifting could help survivors connect with their bodies, reclaim their power, and heal from trauma and PTSD.

Before committing her time to Sanctuary, Dianna worked for over 25 years within the fitness industry. She created Her Strength, a program dedicated to promoting the benefits of strength training for women over the age of 50. As a long time supporter of Sanctuary, Dianna hosted an annual event, Women of Strength, where money was raised in support of Sanctuary.

Having already done so much for Sanctuary, Dianna reached out with an idea to create a wellness program for Sanctuary clients that could utilize both her skills as a fitness instructor and connections across the city. Sanctuary’s team of Survivor Leaders had just created a committee to focus on its very own Wellness Project, so Dianna connecting with Sanctuary at that moment seemed meant to be!

Dianna collaborated with Sanctuary and mobilized a team of fitness instructors to help create the trauma-informed program, and offered six weeks of free sessions to Sanctuary’s Survivor Leaders. The Survivor Leaders Institute is an innovative program that trains former Sanctuary clients, who have been out of their abusive situations for approximately one year, to provide information about gender-based violence to the community. Survivor Leaders are living examples of how victims can recover their health, power, and self-esteem through seeking help and supporting one another.

While creating the program, Dianna understood the collaborative process and valued everyone within the project.

“I think one of Dianna’s greatest strengths is that she truly sees survivors as equals and values their voices. As gender-based violence is rooted in the abuse of power and control, it was imperative that this project centered on shared power, collective decision-making and co-creation, and Dianna got it.” — Shobana Powell, LCSW, Director, Survivor Leadership Program.

Shobana Powell was delighted to honor Dianna for all of her work this year.“Dianna should be recognized because she is the perfect combination of empathy and excellence. Because she values our clients and our mission and because of who she is as a person, she showed up 100% in every single way.  Dianna was such an amazing volunteer to work with because no task was too small nor too big for her to take on, and yet, with all of her passion and tenacity, she managed to have great patience and grace in meeting each survivor where they were, never expecting anyone to move at her pace, but empowering them to move at their own. Her humility and humanity were beautiful to see.”

Carmen, one of the participants in the program, reflected on her time with Dianna and wrote,

“During one of our sessions I made a comment, in passing, about the fact that survivors are more than an incident in a lifetime of experiences and she got it. She not only got it, but weeks later, when I had forgotten the conversation she said something after the fundraiser she did that showed me that she had not only heard me, but had been thinking about it and was preaching it loudly and clearly to the uninitiated.”

Working with Dianna has filled everyone with light, positivity, and restoration.

We thank Dianna for her amazing commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and Survivor Leaders! Her impact reaches far beyond what can be captured in words.

Recognizing Gabrielle Marshall: A Pillars of Change Honoree

For over two years of steadfast support of children receiving services at Sanctuary’s transitional shelter and at the Bronx Family Justice Center.

Over the past two years, Gabrielle has worked within the Children and Family Services Program – both at Sanctuary’s large transitional shelter, Sarah Burke House, as well as the Bronx Family Justice Center. Most recently, Gabrielle has volunteered her time and talents with Sanctuary’s chapter of the Brooke Jackman Family Literacy Program that runs both in the fall and spring. The Brooke Jackman Program hosts several families each week and runs a series over eight weeks of activities that include: reading, arts & crafts and dinner.

Gabrielle is currently a Masters of Social Work student at Columbia University and came to Sanctuary as an intern with previous experience and academic knowledge that has been an asset to her work with children. Each Wednesday, Gabrielle works eight hours at her school partnered internship, volunteers with Sanctuary in the Bronx, and then attends classes shortly thereafter! We are so incredibly grateful for her dedication to the program and our clients.

With her experience and commitment, Gabrielle has become an invaluable part of the Brooke Jackman program. She easily connects with all of the families who attend the group.

“Her energy, willingness to be helpful, and engagement is always the same” — Waleska Tatis, Program Coordinator, Clinical Department’s Children and Family Services.

Gabrielle is also a very empowering voice for many of the children in the Program. She encourages everyone’s unique artistic style that really helps the children to build confidence. Waleska spoke fondly about a time when Gabrielle was able to connect with a particular child.

“During one of the cycles, we had 4-year-old boy, from a family of five, who wanted to be seen as older and independent although everyone in the family kept doing things for him. During an arts & crafts activity, Gabby was able to help him, without taking away his independent thoughts and will. The family acknowledged his skills, congratulating him, making him feel like a big boy instead of the baby of the house. He was super thankful, even his speech improved with his confidence.”

The Brooke Jackman program has been incredibly successful over the years, and it would not be possible without the help of volunteers like Gabrielle.

We thank Gabrielle for her amazing commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and clients! Her impact reaches far beyond what can be captured in words. The experiences, memories, and confidence she instills in the family participants will last long after the stories she reads to them each week.

Recognizing Jennifer Escobar & Rita Pascarella-Ronk: Pillars of Change Honorees

Jennifer and Rita are 2019 Pillars of Change honorees.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

Rita Pascarella-Ronk was introduced to Sanctuary for Families over 15 years ago through former Board President and the current Chair of Sanctuary’s President’s Council, Stephanie Ferdman. After being involved for a while Rita recalls, “The most memorable incident was when one of my friends was having a difficult day and asked me to dinner to catch up and talk. I was already committed to attending the graduation for clients in Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program and told my friend that she could come with me. To see the women stand up and be proud of each other and their accomplishments, my friend looked at me and said: “Thank you, I needed this perspective”. From that day forward this friend has never stopped volunteering and being involved with Sanctuary.”

That friend was Rita’s colleague, Jennifer Escobar! Since Rita introduced Jen to the Sanctuary network, they have been an incredible team of support for the agency and the clients we support. The two friends have moved jobs (together!) and have created and grown a multi-faceted partnership with their current employer, City National Bank. Over the past two years, Rita and Jen have organized multiple trainings for their colleagues at the bank that cover an in-depth overview of Sanctuary for Families and the challenges faced by clients. The wonderful colleagues within the bank’s Women’s Network have volunteered their time and skills, creating a customized, once-a-month, Financial Development series for the clients living at Sanctuary’s large, transitional residence, Sarah Burke House.

Sarah Burke House is New York’s largest transitional housing shelter located in the south Bronx. The shelter houses 58 families at any given time and provides supportive services to the residents as well as those who have moved out of the shelter through their comprehensive Aftercare Program. Lorena Zavala, a Case Manager at Sarah Burke House shares: “Jen and Rita foster a warm, welcoming, learning environment. This much-needed service is vital for our clients in getting back on their feet after shelter, and Rita and Jen have perfected making our clients feel comfortable and safe around a topic as daunting as personal finances. Their programming has made a huge impact on the lives of our survivors by making financial planning accessible, giving them the tools to progress toward their financial goals, and for some of our residents, providing the first encouragement and guidance to help them become financially independent. They even ensured diversity within the group of volunteers which made a big impact on the residents and helped everyone feel that their financial goals are attainable.”

Although Jen and Rita most often volunteer as a dynamic duo, they each have volunteered as individuals in “personal volunteer side projects” including but not limited to: resume writing, mock interviews, providing support to individual clients, participating as members of our Career Advancement Network which supports the clients within the Economic Empowerment Program, organizing volunteers to provide hundreds of Mother’s Day shoeboxes (thanks to Shoebox NYC) and participating in our gift drives during the end-of-year holiday season.

On one particular occasion, I had one of the women I was helping prepare a budget look at me with tears in her eyes and ask why I was doing this for her and I could only respond, “Why wouldn’t I?” Everyone deserves to be helped. She was so grateful, we hugged at the end of our meeting.” -Jen

“I hope showing up for the events shows the women they have individuals who are cheering for their success and are willing to help them.” – Rita 

“The idea that a small investment of my knowledge and time I can help make a positive impact in someone’s life is very rewarding.” – Jennifer Escobar

We thank Rita and Jen for their combined years of service to Sanctuary for Families. They both have provided an immeasurable amount of educational tools, resources, and encouragement to the lives they have touched, and our clients and staff alike are eternally grateful!

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize Rita, Jen, and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!

Recognizing Gail Friedman: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Gail is a 2019 Pillars of Change honoree.

In anticipation of Pillars of Change on June 11th, we are highlighting Sanctuary Volunteers who will be honored at the volunteer recognition event! Learn More and Register for Pillars of Change.

“When I am at Sanctuary for Families, I am surrounded by family, and I am home.” – Gail

Approximately three years ago, Gail Friedman became an invaluable member to Sanctuary’s In-kind donations team.

Since her first day, Gail has been working in Sanctuary’s Butterfly Boutique and adjacent storage room. The onsite clothing boutique is space at Sanctuary’s Manhattan service providing an office where clients and their children can select from a range of new and like-new donations in a calming and empowering environment. Donations of clothing and other items are an important way that Sanctuary can meet the immediate needs of clients and help them on their paths to safety and independence.

Gail began volunteering at Sanctuary’s original lower Manhattan office and continued to volunteer the agency’s big move to a new location – a location where the Butterfly Boutique did not yet exist. Sanctuary’s Director of Corporate and Volunteer Relations explains, “We didn’t have a Boutique, and our only “In-kind” staff member had just left to return to school. I knew it was going to take a lot to get the in-kind donations program up and running again, but with Gail’s ‘can-do’ attitude and support, I knew it was possible.”

After raising her own family, Gail felt that it was the right time to give back to an organization that provided so much support to so many people. Gail has not only been essential in organizing and maintaining such an integral part of the in-kind program but goes above and beyond to provide a warm and welcoming experience for clients.

“I want clients to leave the Boutique not only with clothing but with a feeling of self-worth.” – Gail

Additionally, because the service is open to all clients throughout the agency, Gail has touched many lives of those who she has never met at Sanctuary’s other 10 locations. “Gail has been one of the best volunteers I have interacted with, ever! She is always very cheerful and ready to assist our clients. I have multiple clients who ask for her and thank her for all that she does for them just by being in the Boutique. Gail has given clothes and items to clients who are the most in need. Always very friendly, kind, respectful, tentative, caring, compassionate, and many more descriptive words,” says Melina Hernandez, Matrimonial and Economic Justice Project Assistant.

Marissa Rosenberg-Carlson, a Case Manager within the Anti-Trafficking Initiative, shares that many of her clients look forward to seeing Gail when they come to Sanctuary for appointments. She says, “Gail always remembers what clients like & details about their children, and she goes to great lengths to make them feel comfortable and supported. Seeing her is often a highlight for my clients, particularly after they discuss heavy topics in case management sessions.”

We thank Gail for her years of commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and clients! Her impact is felt far beyond what can be expressed in words.

We hope you will join us at Pillars of Change on June 11th, 2019 to recognize Gail and all of our volunteers for their dedicated service. Please RSVP for Pillars of Change today!