Pillars of Change: Celebrating Sanctuary's Volunteers

Every year, Sanctuary for Families honors volunteers who have demonstrated exceptional service. Volunteers are essential to Sanctuary's ability to provide high-quality, personalized care to victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking.

On Thursday, May 1, we were thrilled to honor six remarkable volunteers (among them, five humans and one dog!) at our Pillars of Change event. View photos from the evening and read more about our volunteers below.

Sanctuary is so grateful to the thousands of volunteers who support the organization and those who seek our help by generously providing their skills, dedication and resources.

The 2014 Pillars of Change Volunteer Honorees:

  • Kevitt Adler
  • Beth Burkhardt
  • Connie Cosner
  • Jane Kopelman and Kelly (pet assisted therapy dog)
  • Gerri Woods and Horace Mann's Women's Issues Group

Read about our amazing 2014 Volunteer Honorees!

Kevitt Adler

Kevitt Adler graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 2012. At Michigan he was active in the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, helping clients contest IRS decisions and obtain favorable payment plans. He came to Sanctuary in October 2013 on a fellowship through the University of Michigan to work with Sonia Mansoor in public benefits. Upon the completion of his fellowship, Kevitt stayed on as a full-time volunteer attorney. Since then he has expanded his practice into housing, providing legal representation in housing court for clients facing eviction. In February 2014 Kevitt was officially hired as a Staff Attorney for Sanctuary’s Economic Justice Project. He continues to provide both housing and public benefits services to Sanctuary’s clients.

Beth Burkhardt

Beth currently works at Deloitte as a Senior Manager specializing in international tax consulting.  She has been working as a tax professional in a career spanning more than 15 years.  During her time in the client service group at Deloitte, she saw the value Deloitte placed on community service and participated in several community outreach events.  When she moved to New York City three years ago, she was introduced to the volunteer opportunity with Sanctuary for Families’ Economic Empowerment Program through Deloitte’s New York Office. With the support of her group firmly behind her, Beth started volunteering with Sanctuary’s Office Operations Workshop (OOW) in the fall of 2011. She has been involved in each semester since.  She has found this experience rewarding and enjoys seeing the wonderful transformation of the clients over the course of each semester.

Connie Cosner

Connie Cosner has a background in Rehabilitation Counseling, with experience working with mentally ill, incarcerated, elderly and youth populations. After a career change, she worked for nearly 35 years in law firm management with a focus in human resources and operations. While transitioning toward retirement, Connie became increasingly involved with Sanctuary for Families. Her volunteer efforts include assisting with events and mailings. As a member of Sanctuary’s Legal Advisory Committee and the Career Advancement Network, Connie serves as a liaison to New York area law firms to help find internship placements for Sanctuary’s clients. She also facilitates Mock Interview Sessions for Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) clients and has helped develop instructional and curriculum materials. Through her work with the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), Connie was instrumental in getting Sanctuary chosen as the beneficiary for this year’s ALA benefit. The event raised over $11,000, which will fund the purchase of business suits and internship placements for clients involved in the Economic Empowerment Program’s Office Operations Workshop.

Jane Kopelman and Kelly

Jane Kopelman is a dog trainer and a certified evaluator for Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society), an organization that helps people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives. She has been involved in animal assisted therapy for more than twenty years. Jane has worked as a behavior counselor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Manhattan and as a Shelter Manager at Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption. She currently works with two Pet Partner dogs, Kelly and Clinton, who she adopted from shelters. Kelly has been working with children and in hospitals for many years, and began working with Sanctuary’s Children and Youth Services program in 2009. In 2012 Kelly and Jane won the “Halo Award” from Angel on a Leash, an organization dedicated to creating the best therapy dog programs in health care facilities and other settings across the country. Clinton, the latest addition to the family, has been working for three years. Both Kelly and Clinton love bringing joy to the people they visit. Read about Kelly's recent visit to Sanctuary!

Gerri Woods

Gerri Woods has worked at the Horace Mann School for the past 30 years, teaching English and directing the Independent Study program. She began advising the Women’s Issues Club of Horace Mann in the late 1990s. About 10 years ago, a student approached Gerri proposing that the club partner with and support the work of Sanctuary for Families. Under Gerri’s advising, the student initiated a partnership between the Women’s Issues Club and Sanctuary for Families that continues to this day. The club members volunteer at Sanctuary’s Sarah Burke House Shelter (SBH) on a monthly basis, assisting the children and mothers who reside there with arts and crafts projects. Last year, the students held bake sales and sold t-shirts as fundraising efforts to help support a renovation project at SBH. With the money they raised, they assisted the renovation process by painting walls and creating a curtain of fabric quilt squares featuring drawings made by children at SBH. Gerri is very proud of her students’ commitment and is honored to work with the caring professionals at Sanctuary for Families. 


2013 Volunteer Honorees:

  • Terry Kobel: for her contributions as a founding member of Sanctuary’s Career Advancement Network and as an active member of the Legal Advisory Council, who has also been a constant volunteer at Zero Tolerance and other special events and mailings.
  • Christine Scott: for her dedication in pioneering Deloitte’s corporate partnership with Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program, recruiting volunteers to teach clients in the Office Operations Workshop and volunteering much of her own time to help with the program.
  • Jonathan So: for his work as a dedicated volunteer attorney in Sanctuary’s Legal Center, representing victims of domestic violence in Family Law proceedings. 
  • Lisa Vargas: for tutoring numerous Sanctuary clients in computer skills and ESL, and for being one of Sanctuary’s most consistent Spanish document translators for the past few years.     
  • Arielle Kauvar: Virtual Volunteer Award – for generously volunteering her professional expertise, providing pro bono laser treatments on one of Sanctuary’s clients to remove a tattoo of her trafficker’s name.

            2012 Volunteer Honorees:

            • Mary Block: for her devotion to tutoring the same child at Sanctuary for over two years, while also volunteering with miscellaneous tasks at our transitional shelter and helping with mailings and special events.
            • Jennifer Chaitman: for 'fostering' pets of Sanctuary clients in order to bring peace to their families as they make changes to their living situations, and for her active participation in the Mothers Council.
            • Frances Kazan: for her dedication to Sarah Burke House through consistent volunteer support in the childcare program, generous in-kind donations, and consistently helping with various special projects at both SBH and the Manhattan Office.
            • Ellen Weldon: Virtual Volunteer Award - for her years of pro bono service creating hand-lettered certificates for the Abely Awards and Pillars of Change, and hosting "The Big Write" annually at her studio to raise funds for Sanctuary.

            2011 Volunteer Honorees:

            • Fikre Deneke: for his dedication to helping Sanctuary in any way possible, from tutoring to mailings and special events to tailoring Citi's Financial Education curriculum for our clients.
            • Robin Kupersmith: for her years of service to Sanctuary as a paralegal on pro bono cases, as a volunteer and Benefit Committee member for Zero Tolerance, and as an integral member of the Pro Bono Council.
            • Joan Lawless: for supporting Sanctuary's Legal Center as a reliable administrative volunteer over three years, donating to the Adopt-a-Family program annually, and tirelessly volunteering for numerous special events and mailings.
            • Nancy Lazar: for her years of pro bono legal assistance through Davis, Polk & Wardwell, and her extraordinarily generous support of Sanctuary's annual holiday drive through children's gift donations.
            • Kate Hyde: Virtual Volunteer Award - for her years of lending graphic design support for events and agency communications, all from her home in Massachusetts.

            2010 Volunteer Honorees:

              • Suzanne Davis: for her commitment to clients at Sarah Burke House over the last five years, teaching computer classes to women and providing one-on-one tutoring to children while also providing support to staff.
              • Dr. John McIvor: for leading students at the Horace Mann School to hold the annual holiday party for 250-300 Sanctuary clients each year.
              • Anna Harrington: for her longtime dedication, support and contributions to Sanctuary's Zero Tolerance Benefit.
              • Jennifer Friedland: for her support of Sanctuary's clients, helping with our annual Back to School Bash, filling client holiday wish lists, using her skills as an attorney in our Legal Center, and being an active member of the Mothers Council. 

              2009 Volunteer Honorees:

              • Gina Gibney: for the innovative dance and movement workshops that the Gina Gibney Dance Company has run for the women and children served by Sanctuary.
              • Angela Karides: for her dedication tutoring, serving as a volunteer children’s group leader, helping with special events, and serving on the Zero Tolerance Benefit and Dinner Committee.
              • Maggie Romine: for her tireless coordination of Citi’s volunteer work with Sanctuary.
              • MK Wong: for her long-time commitment and dedication to planning Sanctuary’s Zero Tolerance Benefit.