O.C. Safe Homes Celebrates 32nd Anniversary

By Jennifer L. Warren

NEW WINDSOR – They were three of many similar women, but their stories were intensely emotionally unique and riveting.

Directly following a candlelight vigil honoring those who did not survive the wrath of domestic abuse, three women (one the mother of a victim) revealed their intimate stories connected to this heart wrenching, all too prevalent epidemic in a video produced by a well known and respected videographer. Barely a sound could be heard at Anthony’s Pier 9 as a room full of close to 300 guests (including many survivors) had their eyes glued to the large screen in the front of the room.

The first woman unraveling her slow downward spiral into abuse related a tale of a charismatic man who she wanted to try to “save” and fix in some way. Another, a mother, spoke of the hell she experienced losing her adopted teenage daughter to the cyclic violence inherited by the older boyfriend she was so enamored by. The third woman, another survivor, tearfully relayed her struggle with co-dependence, drugs and self-love.

“I knew I deserved much more than abuse,” she emotionally affirmed.

Regardless of the specifics, many truisms resonated with each of their stories, including one that contained the night’s theme.

“Victims need to know above all else, you believe them,” said one survivor.

“Believe” was the guiding mantra at the 2018 Annual Celebration of Hope Gala. It was a word that means everything to the agency, Safe Homes of Orange County, who bestowed four Awards to area agencies who have been priceless partners in their diligent, unwavering commitment to help those impacted by domestic abuse. That assistance not only lies in empowering the victims in all ways possible but ensuring their perpetrators are dealt with accordingly for the severity of their crimes.

“The theme of tonight is about believing victims first,” said Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier, Executive Director of Safe Homes. “There is always that one person who can change the projector-the path of someone else’s life who has been affected by domestic abuse; whether it’s finding them services or helping with their healing, we have to believe the victims first.”

Four of Safe Homes’ dedicated partners have kept that “believe” word at the forefront of their work and support, as they assist in every way possible to “make the magic happen every single day.” Each was honored with a distinct award during the ceremony that Kostyal-Larrier explained as having a “very warm, special and memorable vibe” that transcended throughout the entire room.

Joan Cusack-McGuirk, President and CEO of St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital accepted the Hope Award on behalf of her agency.

“It’s an honor to be recognized with the Safe Homes of Orange County Hope Award, as they do incredible work every day, and this truly touches my heart,” said Cusack-McGuirk. “I am proud to support their mission both personally and professionally; it is with great pride that I work in partnership with our many community partners, and specifically Safe Homes of Orange County, truly making a difference in the lives we serve.”

Also recognized were The Monroe-Woodbury Rotary Club with The Mildred Warren Good Neighbor Award, Amy Stillwagon of the Newburgh Envelope Corporation with the Jane Chertock Legacy Award and the City of Newburgh Police Department and Child Welfare of the Orange County Department of Social Services, each received the Family Justice Center Award.

“For Safe Homes to honor our collaborative and positive effect we make in the lives of families and children is a true honor,” said Darci Miller, Commissioner for the Orange County Department of Social Services and Department of Mental Health. “This work is only made possible by everything we all do together; it’s all about the people we have on the ground and our staff that makes this happen.”

It’s those indelible bonds between Safe Homes and these priceless agencies that allow the “magic” that many referred to and sparkled with Friday night at Anthony’s Pier 9 to transpire and change lives forever.

“Thanks to Safe Homes I have a second chance at life,” said one of the women relating her journey in the video with a look of immeasurable gratitude evident in her eyes. “I never feel like I’m alone.”

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