PORT RICHEY – Domestic violence is the only crime in which victims are asked to flee their homes, leave behind treasured possessions and disrupt their lives, state Sen. Mike Fasano observed.
Yet a host of deputies, bailiffs, attorneys, volunteers, church outreach workers and a Pizza Hut store all strive to make the transition easier for those who stay at the Salvation Army domestic violence shelter and appear for court hearings.
Fasano, R-Port Richey, spoke about the accomplishments of 18 honorees at an awards ceremony on Oct. 12. The Salvation Army Domestic Violence program and the West Pasco Domestic Violence Task Force sponsored the event.
Before the awards, volunteers read gut-wrenching messages written by domestic violence victims and their children. They sought refuge from controlling abusers who had beaten them down physically and mentally.
Last year the program provided 302 women and children with shelter, logged 7,513 shelter nights and fed 22,539 meals, all free to victims of domestic violence.
The temporary residents all said they and their children looked forward to the weekly pizza night at the shelters, courtesy of donations from Pizza Hut store 109. General manager Jed Jose accepted the honor for providing 1,664 meals a year.
St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Outreach Ministry also received thanks for providing clothing to shelter residents. Church workers give stuffed animals and candy on Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween. They also have donated new pillows. St. Martin’s annual Toy Sunday fundraiser is coming the first Sunday in December.
Rosalyn Fenton has worked with victims of domestic violence for more than 20 years with the Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office. She streamlined many of the procedures for filing domestic violence injunctions.
Salvation Army volunteer Iris Roman took 30 hours of training to become a certified domestic violence advocate registered with the state of Florida. She works three days a week at the shelter. She answers the crisis hotline, translates for Spanish speaking clients, counsels victims, assists children and much more.
Assistant State Attorney Angela Sarabia helps victims set up safety plans. She has assisted the detectives from the sheriffs office with stalking and domestic violence cases.
A lifelong Pasco resident, attorney Scott Finelli has eased the path of domestic violence victims who find the court system daunting.
Michelle Balon has worked for Pasco-Hernando Community College academic and student services. During that time, she served as the victims’ advocate at PHCC’s New Port Richey campus from 1992-2008.
Among honorees from the Sheriff’s Office were deputies Ronald Heinemann, Sean Gibson, Michael Spinelli, Travis Schreck, Sgt. Timothy Ceresoli and communications officer Patricia Raia.
Many were involved in the response to a March 31 incident in which a woman called 911 while lying on her kitchen floor bleeding because her husband shot her. Deputies responded to the scene where the assailant had hunkered down in a bedroom. He later was found dead from an apparently self-inflicted wound, police said. The victim survived.
In addition, detectives Peter Federico and Michael Rosa were honored for their handling of cases.
Deputies Kim Sanders and Lucy Stasio serve as bailiffs in courtrooms who help guide victims through the injunction process.
Charles Sekeres was singled out for his work as a child protection investigator for the sheriff’s office.
Deputy Jennifer Zoccoli serves as the field-training officer for the sheriff’s office. She prepares deputies in handling tense situations when responding to DV calls. Often victims of domestic violence ask for her by name because of her commitment to aid them, her supervisor said.