By Jennifer L. Warren
It might have not looked like your typical fundraiser gala, but the cohesive intent, dedicated passion and critical need remained untouched at Thursday’s Annual Fearless! Hudson Valley Inc. virtual event.
Formerly known as Safe Homes of Orange County, Fearless, founded in 1986, is the only private, not-for-profit agency in Orange and Sullivan Counties committed to serving all the needs of survivors of domestic violence, including teen dating violence and human trafficking. Their mission is aimed at creating an informed, just and accountable society where all people can nurture safe, healthy relationships. In order to accomplish these increasing needs (even more so now during the Pandemic), the organization heavily depends on (and deeply appreciates) fiscal assistance from the community. Thursday evening that support was glaringly present, as the organization exceeded their $35,000 goal.
“We are just so thankful for all of the support,” said Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier, Executive Director, sitting behind a table clad in a black evening gown as she hosted the virtual 90 minute event that included behind-the-scenes snapshots of the multiple services Fearless provides, how the Pandemic has affected the victims and survivors, a sneak peak at the new 20 bed residential facility and a tribute to the five selfless honorees. Kostyal-Larrier was joined by Sarita Green, Associate Director, also dressed in formal attire and helping to add lighthearted interludes (such as slippers replacing the customary heel footwear) to the evening aimed at a prevalent and serious topic.
The night initiated with a tribute to the 34 women who have been murdered by their significant other in Orange and Sullivan counties since 2012. The hosts pointed out that one more had recently been added to that somber list. There is no specific face to those who experience domestic abuse. Regardless of age, financial status, ethnicity, religion, or a host of other variables, anyone can be affected by this often “silent” adversary afflicting far too many. However, Fearless wants all who do travel that road to know two things for certain.
“You are not alone,” affirmed Green. “And you do not have to do it alone.”
The wide spectrum of services Fearless provides is a testament to that unwavering, loving support. A Family Justice Center, Therapeutic Counseling Services, Court Advocates, an Education and Prevention Program, Child Protective Services, Anti-trafficking Program, and 24 Hour Hotline (845-562-5340) are just some of those free and confidential, often life-saving services. Each one had representatives speak Thursday evening on their very detailed, critical offerings, providing personal scenarios of how they made a marked difference in people’s lives.
Five people who were honored for the tremendous impact they too have had on people’s lives were also part of the online program, streaming on Facebook and YouTube. Two honorees were presented with Hope Awards: Anne Harris and Christine Pagliaro. Harris, whose 20 year old daughter Alexis Olivia was beaten to death by her boyfriend, has made it her life’s mission ever since to bring awareness to domestic violence as well as advocate for those directly involved with it.
“Through Fearless, I was able to find my own voice,” said the emotional mother Harris. “If sharing Alexis’ story can save a life, we would have made a difference.”
Other accolades granted were: The Family Justice Center Award, going to Debbie O’Malley and Jane Chertock Legacy Awards: one to Francis “Chip” Estenes and the other to Arianna Pineiro.
O’Malley has been a Program Manager for the RISE Program Garnet Health Medical Center in the Catskills for the past 40 years. Supporting children and adults who have become victims of sexual violence, RISE provides integral counseling, advocacy and other services to help navigate this challenging process.
“Though each person’s journey is different, my experiences have allowed me to assist each one in a different manner,” said O’Malley, a strong and determined advocate, who fights relentlessly for her clients. “My work with survivors is intimate and critical.” She added, “I appreciate being recognized, but want to let others know how important the work is that all the people do at RISE and to really encourage people to discuss rape and foster an environment where we are all able to feel safe.”
It’s that very security and hope that Fearless makes its top priorities each and every day.