Hundreds of local residents including government officials gathered early this morning to pay tribute to a nonprofit that, for 47 years, has been a safe haven for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Fairfield & Litchfield Counties.
14th Annual Hearts of Hope Breakfast benefiting The Center for Empowerment & Education (formerly the Women's Center of Greater Danbury) took place today, Wednesday, March 23, at the Candlewood Inn in Brookfield.
With the backdrop of picturesque Candlewood Lake, Eric Eggan, Board of Directors Chair kicked off the morning welcoming attendees and thanking John Royce, owner of The Candlewood Inn, for generously offering his venue and the delicious breakfast free of charge so 100% of the funds raised would benefit The Center (even the wait staff served with a smile and donated their time today).
Ashey Dunn, The Center’s new President & CEO introduced herself to attendees. Dunn takes the place of longtime CEO Patricia A. Zachman who retired in February. While Dunn has an impressive background in the nonprofit sector, her passion for providing a safe haven for those experiencing domestic violence comes from a place deep within - she was once a victim. “I believe this is where I’m meant to be,” she said.
Karen Ross, The Center’s 2021 Service Above Self recipient had the honor of introducing Alexa Skalandunas as this year’s Service Above Self honoree. Alexa has been a longtime advocate for The Center and is a former member of the Board of Directors.
Each year, a highlight of the Hearts of Hope Breakfast is hearing firsthand The Center’s mission at work. While we are withholding the speaker’s name for confidentiality reasons (she/her) is a client, survivor and now advocate for The Center and shared her powerful story about overcoming domestic violence.
Coming to The Center with bruises, no self-worth, and speaking little English, a courageous immigrant learned to live again thanks to The Center and the advocacy of her counselor, Karen who, she says, “led her to a violent-free life.”
Speaking of her abuser she recalls, “He waited until we were married and had a child before he began to beat me. He used his fist, feet, and weapons to get what he wanted.” While she says she was destroyed by her abuser, she credits The Center for helping her to rebuild her life.
“I’m standing here. The abuser did not win," she said. Now with a nursing degree in hand, she is dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence rebuild their lives and looks forward to furthering her education.
Thank you to the many sponsors of the 2022 Hearts of Hope Breakfast Benefactors Beautiful News Christian Books & Gifts, Linde, and Mediaassociates and Advocates including Lori Berisford & Elaine Cox, Suzanne Gralnick, the Norwalk family, Rectangle Health and ThinkSisu.
Save the date for the Center’s annual dinner on June 17, 2022 “At the Heart of it All”. Learn more here.