Former Monroe principal among CFJ’s volunteers of the year

Debra Kovachi was a principal for Monroe Elementary School for many years before her retirement. Contributed

BRIDGEPORT, CT — Debra Kovachi, a former principal of Monroe Elementary School, was among two women named 2020 Beatrice Boucher Volunteers of the Year by The Center for Family Justice.

Kovachi and fellow Fairfield resident, Amanda Valese, earned the recognition for their selfless dedication to the victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence the nonprofit serves.

“Deb and Amanda each epitomize the best of our outstanding volunteers at The Center for Family Justice,” said Debra A. Greenwood, CFJ’s president and CEO. “Our clients and staff really value their kindness and compassion when working with our clients impacted by trauma. Both women have jumped in to support us in so many meaningful and impactful ways. We’re truly grateful and thrilled they share this honor they deserve.”

Amanda Valese

The women received CFJ’s highest volunteer honor on June 25 at the organization’s annual meeting, held virtually via Facebook due to state social distancing guidelines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The award is given annually to posthumously honor the late Beatrice Boucher, a Trumbull resident who served CFJ as a volunteer for more than a decade.

Kovachi began training for her volunteer role at CFJ before her retirement as principal of Monroe Elementary School. She works two shifts a week as a Crisis Navigator volunteer, making her one of the first people to greet and support victims of domestic and sexual violence who come to the nonprofit’s headquarters seeking crisis services.

Her background in social work has helped her thrive in this role and become a highly respected volunteer trusted by CFJ’s team for her exceptional skills working with traumatized clients.

“l had contact with The Center for Family Justice during my career in education with both the Trumbull and Monroe public schools,” Kovachi said. “Upon my retirement, it was a natural step to volunteer at the center to stay involved in serving our community. This has enabled me to support CFJ’s staff as they work tirelessly to provide immediate critical safe keeping for the clients, as well as ongoing care and attention.”

Valese, who has been a volunteer at CFJ for more than three years, first came to the agency as a prospective intern. She subsequently began volunteering at its Crisis Reception Desk twice a week. When CFJ created a new Crisis Navigator role, which allows select highly-trained volunteers to work directly with clients in crisis, she was the second person to take that position.

She continues to work at CFJ several hours each week, even while busy with the demands of a counseling internship at another nonprofit.

“I am happy to be able to provide the additional support that our clients need during such challenging times in their lives,” she said. “My hope is to help make the first step of a difficult journey a little easier for our clients by showing respect, offering support, and providing information and a smile.”

CFJ serves more than 4,500 adult and child victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse from the communities of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.

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