This is the Center for Hope and Safety
Updated: May 23, 2019
By Jennifer Ersalesi
After the tragic loss of his daughter, Rutherford elementary school teacher Michelle Sabia in an act of domestic violence in 2016, Rutherford resident Peter Miragliotta has found a way to both honor her memory and help women and children who are currently in dangerous situations find a way out. Not all victims of domestic violence bear scars that you can see - many victims don't even know what's happening to them until it's too late. Peter, along with fellow resident Dan Meredith have committed themselves to shedding light on this difficult topic by volunteering with The Center for Hope and Safety .
The CHS is an organization that assists victims of domestic violence and their children by providing them with a number of different services to aid them in recovery and healing. It offers a 24-hour hotline, an emergency shelter, counseling, legal assistance, low-cost transitional housing options, career training, Project CHILD (a support program for children who have been affected by domestic violence), etc.
This is Rutherford spoke with Rutherford residents Peter Miragliotta and Dan Meredith about their involvement with CHS and how they support and raise awareness about the Center for Hope and Safety.
Learn more below about how you can support The CHS at upcoming events such as their golf outing on June 6th and Walk Against Domestic Violence.
TIR: How did you become involved with the Center for Hope and Safety?
PM: I had previously done a small pro-bono consulting project for the agency and had gotten to know Jeff Forster who was then the Board President, as well as Dr. Julye Myner, Executive Director, and Jean Kirch, Development Director. After a while, I expressed my interest in joining the board to Jeff and he arranged for me to go through the board membership screening process, during which I met several other members of the board. Jackie, my wife, and I also attended CHS’s gala last April and that gave us another opportunity to meet several more members of the board, staff and volunteers. Jackie and I both agreed that by joining the CHS board would be an appropriate way to honor our daughter Michele’s memory and to try to do what we can to help women and children whose lives are affected by domestic abuse. Michele Sabia, our daughter, was killed in an act of domestic violence in July 2016.
My wife, Jackie, and I were the main speakers at CHS’s Candlelight Vigil last October. Speaking at the Candlelight Vigil was our first opportunity speak in a public setting about Michele and the type of person that she was. We tried to get the message across that not all domestic violence is physical and that the typical “profile” of a person affected by domestic abuse may not be accurate. Everyone probably knows at least one person who has been affected by domestic violence, but you may not know it because they may not carry the physical signs that many of us expect and/or they may appear much more confident, optimistic and outgoing than you’d expect. That certainly describes Michele. Almost everyone we have spoken with since her death has commented about her positive outlook and ever present smile.
TIR: Why is this cause important to you?
PM: Many people whose lives are impacted by a personal tragedy, as ours were, want to do something to remember and honor their loved one whom they have lost. There’s a sense of disbelief and helplessness when you lose someone the way we lost Michele. Quite frankly, we did not see it coming. While her husband suffered from chronic depression and had a handful of severe episodes of mental breakdowns, there had not been any instances of physical abuse. No one who knew Michele would even think of her as a victim of any kind and certainly not a domestic violence victim.
We needed to come to terms with what happened to her and why we did not see the possibility that she would come to physical harm. We came to realize that there are many forms of domestic abuse and, that in many cases, it’s not the typical physical abuse that most of us think about. A lot of it can start with financial dependence or creating a psychological dependence. It may manifest itself so gradually that the affected person doesn’t even realize it.
By joining the board of CHS, I feel like I am doing something positive to honor Michele’s memory and that I am doing something to hopefully reduce the amount of domestic abuse, as well as help DV survivors get back on their feet and get their dignity and their lives back. As I’ve shared our story with others, I have been surprised to learn that people I never would have suspected are survivors of domestic abuse. So education about DV is really important. Many people who are affected by DV don’t know about resources like CHS or how to get out of the situation they find themselves in. Likewise, many of us (including some clergy and law enforcement professionals) are not attuned to what may be telltale signs of domestic abuse.
People in Bergen County don’t often realize that domestic violence (DV) does occur in this county and how many women, men and children are affected by it. They also don’t realize our organization exists and has been helping victims since 1976. Every year the number of clients we serve has been increasing. We’ve had many deaths in Bergen County due to DV. Some years these deaths have outnumbered deaths due to other causes. We need everyone to be aware of the signs of DV and if they see these signs, they need to do something because we now have statistics to prove that when the abuse becomes physical, it can escalate to death.
DM: My wife Kristin and myself, feel that the message of domestic violence awareness is not heard as loud as it should be. By nature, it is an uncomfortable topic for the public to grasp let alone advocate against it. Especially when the facts bring this “crisis” of domestic violence closer to home than most would have thought of or would be comfortable to talk about with others.
We began our relationship with the Center for Hope and Safety by having them share our Allstate tent at the Rutherford Labor Day Street Fair. That day we learned how dedicated the volunteers are to this cause and heard so many stories from domestic violence victims right here in our own town. From then on, we have dedicated our resources to helping domestic violence victims be heard.
"Likely in your own neighborhood there are women living behind closed doors in fear for their safety, scared for their children and unsure of how to get help. As much as you might not want to admit it, you know them. They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, coworkers, neighbors and friends. Domestic violence does not discriminate by race, religion, area code or income. Domestic violence is all around us, still so many find it to be an uncomfortable topic." - Dan Meredith
We support awareness of domestic violence and the Center for Hope and Safety, because it is very important not just for the victims to be heard, but for the facts to be explained. We also need to remind everyone of the work being done by “volunteers” every day that fight against domestic violence. Without organizations like the Center for Hope and Safety the lives of so many families in our own area affected by domestic violence would have nowhere to turn to for help. In turn without help from the public and very important funding from places like the Allstate Foundation, awareness of resources and shelter from domestic violence would not exist.
TIR: The Center for Hope and Safety is hosting their Annual Golf Outing on June 6th at the Edgewood Country Club in Rivervale, New Jersey. Together, you are co-chairing the Golf Committee this year. How did you become involved with the Golf Committee?
PM: I joined the board last year just in time for the golf outing, which was really well done. At the next board meeting I had the opportunity to discuss the golf outing and expressed my interest in seeing it continue and grow. One of the other board members suggested that I join the Golf Committee, so that became my first committee involvement for CHS. As a matter of fact, I was asked if I would chair the committee. I met Dan Meredith last October at CHS’s Walk Together Against Domestic Violence. I was really impressed by Dan and Kristin’s dedication to the domestic violence cause and to CHS in particular. I invited Dan to co-chair the golf committee and we have been working to drum up as many golfers, sponsors and other participants as we can.
TIR: What will the money raised at this event specifically be used for at the Center for Hope and Safety?
PM: CHS offers a broad array of programs to support DV victims and survivors, including our shelter, transitional housing, children’s’ services and legal support. Our slogan is, “Rebuilding Lives Beyond Domestic Violence”. Sponsorship funds will be used for the programs described for the specific sponsorship levels. All other funds will be used across all of our programs which help only Bergen County’s victims and survivors of domestic violence.
TIR spoke with Dan, who is an Allstate agent in Rutherford, about Allstate’s continuous support of the CHS.
TIR: Throughout the year, you do a lot of work with the Center for Hope and Safety. For example, you participate in the Walk Together Against Domestic Violence, can you tell us more about that.?
DM: Yes, our agency works closely with the Center for Hope and Safety all year long. The Walk Together Against Domestic Violence is an annual event hosted by the Center for Hope and Safety in October. This walk raises awareness and money to fight against domestic violence. All proceeds go the help the Center for Hope and Safety keep to up the fight. Our agency chooses this walk each year as the platform to raise grants from the Allstate Foundation. With the help of the Allstate Foundation and other Allstate agencies we work hard to make these much-needed grants possible. We started joining in this walk almost four years ago and now find it to be a major part of our work with the Center for Hope and Safety. Many months of time go into planning with the Allstate Foundation to participate and offer the grants. Over the past three years we have raised up to $29,000 from the Allstate Foundation towards the Walk Together Against Domestic Violence. This year we plan to raise $20,000 in grants from the Allstate Foundation for the Walk Together Against Domestic Violence.
The walk will be happening Saturday October 19th, at Van Saun County Park, 216 Forest Ave in Paramus 07652. The walk will begin at 9:00 am and ends at 12:00 pm.
This event is open to the public, many individual and team opportunities will be available.
TIR: What are some other ways Allstate supports the Center for Hope and Safety?
DM: The Allstate Foundation is dedicated to ending domestic violence and Financial abuse. From raising awareness of what to say if you suspect someone is being abused to teaching victims and friends of victims financial empowerment. The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is the longest running national campaign focused on ending domestic violence through a proven solution (financial empowerment services for survivors). www.purplepurse.com is a 24/7 resource center of information about domestic violence awareness and useful tools to help victims find their way to help and financial empowerment. Our agency is dedicated to helping raise awareness to this cause.
We also hold clothing and supply drives for the Center for Hope and Safety throughout the year. This year the Winter Clothing Drive will begin November 29th – January 10th. We are on the Golf committee this year and will have the Center for Hope and Safety at most of our major events such as the Rutherford Labor Day Fair, Columbus Day Festival and much more. The Dan Meredith agency is committed to this cause and will continue to help the Center for Hope and Safety get their word out and raise much needed funding to keep the doors open year after year!
Thursday June 6th, Edgewood Country Club, River Vale NJ
• Buffet lunch
• Two Free Golf Clinics for beginners and experienced golfers
• Cocktail Reception featuring silent auction, dinner, prizes and dessert.
This outing is different than the ones in the past in that we are offering a golf clinic that will benefit both experienced and novice golfers.
It is a great opportunity for business networking, offering Business team sponsorships (golf, dinner, tee sign, recognition on marketing materials, website and social media included) and business networking sponsor (dinner, table to show your business, recognition on marketing materials, website and social media included).
Sponsorships are available at a variety of price points so even small businesses and individuals can afford to help. Detailed information about the outing and available sponsorships are available on our website.