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This week, I would like to focus on a critical organization in our community, The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, and a remarkable New Fairfield volunteer, Peggy Gisonny. Every year, The Women’s Center honors outstanding volunteers with the Service Above Self Award at the annual Hearts for Hope Breakfast. This year, New Fairfield resident Peggy Gisonny was recognized for her 10 years of service to the Center as a Direct Service Volunteer. Over the span of those years, Peggy has spent thousands of hours answering the Center’s Emergency Hotline and counseling those in need of assistance.  She has also been a long-time volunteer with the Community Service Club of New Fairfield and volunteers with the Guiding Eyes for the Blind as a Puppy Socializer.

When she became an ’empty nester’, Peggy was looking for a challenging volunteer opportunity that would help make a difference in the lives of women. She found that role at the Women’s Center. While her work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault was emotionally difficult at times, it also proved to be very rewarding.  She particularly enjoyed working with the Women’s Center staff and learned much from them. She is in awe of the dedication and sacrifices made by all who work and volunteer at the Center, and she’s very thankful that she has had the opportunity to be a part of such an important organization.

Founded in 1975, The Women’s Center serves over 30,000 individuals from 13 communities in our area. Last year, 1,663 New Fairfield residents were served, through both community educational services and direct services. The Center provides free and confidential services to adults and children, including emergency shelter and support services, counseling and advocacy, crisis intervention and community education. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can contact the Center’s 24 hour hotline, or may walk in to the facility located at 2 West Street in Danbury. Individual and group counseling is available, in addition to trained advocates providing on-site emergency response at area hospitals, police departments and at court. Emergency shelter is also provided for men, women and children. Counselors also assist those dealing with other major life transitions such as separation and divorce, grief and loss, and self-esteem issues.

More than 23,000 adults and children benefit from the Women’s Center education and training programs annually. Educational programs are provided to a wide range of audiences, from pre-school children to senior citizens. The Center customizes these programs to suit the age group and special interests of the particular audience. In-service training is also provided to law enforcement and medical professionals to ensure that they are informed about and sensitive to issues concerning domestic violence and sexual assault. Program curricula are designed to reduce the risk of victimization, prevent perpetration of abuse, and to address the societal roots of violence. For professionals, programs focus on sensitive response to victims, increasing collaboration with the community service providers. Educational opportunities are offered through schools, parent teacher organizations, places of worship, service clubs, community organizations, and corporations. All educators are certified domestic violence and sexual assault counselors in accordance with applicable Connecticut state statutes.

Please join me in congratulating Peggy Gisonny and recognizing the life -saving work of all of the volunteers at the Women’s Center. If you need more information, would like to volunteer or support the Women’s Center, please contact them at womenscenter@wcogd.org, 203-731-5200, or visit their website at wcogd.org.

– Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman