Even though she no longer lives in Wilton, former resident Marge Nickel remains solidly connected to the community through the fund she created two years ago in memory of her son, Mark. The Mark Nickel Fund for Wilton Families Impacted by Domestic Violence reflects her late son’s kind and generous spirit by helping Wilton families who are living in violent and abusive relationships. Since its inception, the fund has raised more than $100,000, and the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, which administers the fund, has helped more than 170 Wilton residents through counseling, safety planning, legal assistance and ongoing support.

“I am so proud of reaching a benchmark of over $100,000 for my Mark’s Domestic Violence Fund for Wilton, not only for his memory, but, more importantly, for the many people who have suffered from or survived this hideous situation. Domestic violence destroys families and takes a terrible toll on a person’s self-esteem, outlook on life and ability to succeed,” Marge said. “So many years ago, there was no place for victims to go for refuge. Thanks to the DVCC, there are SafeHouses for protection as well as attorneys and counselors to help adults and children who are in jeopardy.”

Additionally, the Wilton Police Department partners with DVCC in the Lethality Assessment Project, whereby victims determined to be at high risk of danger from their abusers are connected immediately by police to a DVCC advocate. Over the past two years, 76 such calls have been screened by the Wilton police, including a recent case in which police confiscated two guns, a knife and an enormous cache of ammunition from the home of an alleged abuser.

As well as providing direct services, DVCC is also committed to violence prevention through its PeaceWorks education programs. Over the past two years, PeaceWorks programs reached 3,490 Wilton students across the elementary, middle and high school levels. The Teen PeaceWorks Club at Wilton High School continues to be a powerful presence in educating peers, parents and the community about dating violence, as does the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force in promoting awareness about domestic violence and resources for victims.

At a recent fundraiser for DVCC, Wilton Teen PeaceWorks members joined other Teen PeaceWorkers and student athletes from several area high schools to hear New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich talk about the reasons he advocates for victims of domestic violence and for greater awareness about the issue, both within the NFL and beyond.

Kaitlin McNamara, co-president of Wilton Teen PeaceWorks, who sat at a table sponsored by Marge Nickel during DVCC’s Voices of Courage Spring Luncheon, said she and her friends were impressed by what Herzlich had to say.

“Mark’s talk was very powerful and I think that, for all the young men in the audience, it was that much more effective coming from a man,” she said. “People like Mark are exactly what we need for this cause: good, kind and self-assured enough to know that supporting non-violence and speaking out against abusive men is in no way a detriment to their manliness and, if anything, only reinforces it. It meant a lot to hear him speak, and I was very grateful for the experience.”

(Pictured above:  Wilton High School Teen PeaceWorks Club members with New York Giants linebacker Herzlich at this year’s DVCC 14th Annual Voices of Courage Spring Luncheon on May 19. Bottom, kneeling L-R:  Daniella Chavez, JoJo Griep, Allison Farrago. Top, standing L-R:  Kaitlin Zappaterrini, Mark Herzlich, Haley MacDonald, Lizzie MacDonald, Kaitlin McNamara, Garavi Angreji.)

The Domestic Violence Crisis Center is committed to promoting the fundamental right of all individuals to be safe in their personal relationships. With a professional staff of 45 people who have years of experience and advocacy in the field of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, the agency offers confidential services at no charge, including court and legal services; group and individual counseling; SafeHouses; children’s services; SustainAbilityCT, a financial, education and housing advocacy program; medical advocacy; multilingual services; professional adult trainings; PeaceWorks prevention education; a 24-hour hotline (888.774.2900); and EsperanzaCT, a Spanish language website and 24-hour phone service line. DVCC is the only domestic violence agency serving the communities of Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Weston.

In fiscal year 2014 – 2015, DVCC provided legal, counseling, housing, health, and economic empowerment services to 3,322 unduplicated victims of domestic violence and provided shelter to 414 individuals. PeaceWorks, the violence prevention platform of the DVCC, reached 22,566 young people through its in-school programs, PeaceWorkSHOPS afterschool programs and Teen PeaceWorks. For more information please call 203.588.9100 or visit the DVCC website.