The Safety Zone Bounces Back after Breaking from Founder

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After breaking from its executive director and founder, The Safety Zone is bouncing back.

The island’s only abuse and neglect task force has hired two new counselors and an administrative assistant as the agency rebounds following problems with financial compliance which forced the group to restructure.

“I’m glad that we’ve been able to move smoothly through this transition as quickly as we did,” said Shelley Williams, the group’s co-director of administration. “We’re on a learning curve here but we’re working through this time and we’re very excited to have our counselors on board to service our clients.”

Restructuring Organization
After financial compliance issues threatened the group’s existence, Safety Zone officials restructured their organization, Williams explained.

Instead of having an executive director overseeing all aspects of the advocate agency’s operations, there will be two co-directors — a clinical co-director and a co-director of administration.

“Although in the past we had an executive director who was in charge of everything, the skill set necessary to fill that position is almost impossible to find,” said Williams. “It’s very difficult for anyone to run both the clinical and administrative sides of the organization. One person can’t do it all.”

“The organization will run more efficiently with the division of roles,” Williams added.

Community support has also played a key role in The Safety Zone’s ability to stay afloat.

Private Contribution Helps
The group owed $15,000 to the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid salaried employee taxes, which was largely covered by a private donor, explained Williams.

“The private contribution covered a large chunk of our outstanding federal taxes and we are working with them to remove some of the penalties,” she said.

The group’s interim period had a few positive outcomes as Safety Zone officials forged collaborations with a number of other local advocacy groups.

“We’ve collaborated with the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council, the Family Resource Center and the Legal Services of the Virgin Islands,” said Williams. “We’ve also re-established connections with the domestic violence unit of the police department. We’ve had a very good and productive meeting and are looking forward to our re-established relationship with the police.”

The group also has expanded its staff.

New Staff Expands Services
The Safety Zone recently welcomed on board Katie Cunningham, a psychotherapist and consultant for the Department of Human Services, and Erick Lalich, a specialist in the treatment of addictions and recovery therapy. Clients can now choose to talk with either a man or a woman and Lalich is bilingual, expanding the Safety Zone’s services to the Spanish-speaking community.

Don Turner has been hired as the new State Incentive Grant Project Manager. Turner will head a federally-funded anti-drinking after school program which is in the works.

Karissa Hyacinth has also joined the agency as an administrative assistant.

The future looks bright for the island’s advocacy agency.

“We’ve had a transition, but we’re getting back on our feet,” said Williams.

Safety Zone officials are still seeking a clinical co-director and volunteers are always needed.

For more information call 693-7233.