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Celebrating Women Making a Difference this Month and Always

March is Women’s History Month and as it draws to a close, it’s important to shine a light on some of the women who have shaped our journey at Human Options. Without the resilience and vision of leaders like Vivian Clecak (Co-Founder), Maricela Rios-Faust (CEO), Katie Szymczak (Development Director) and Susan Heller (Board of Directors), our organization wouldn’t be the leading nonprofit helping those experiencing relationship violence in Orange County.

Vivian Clecak, one of the visionary founders of Human Options, sparked the first ripple of change in 1981. By halving her therapy practice to raise funds for an organization dedicated to safeguarding abused women and children, she set in motion a legacy that endures to this day. Though retired now, Vivian’s impact remains as the lives she touched continue to remember and appreciate her unwavering support during their most vulnerable moments.

Following Vivian’s lead, Maricela Rios-Faust, our Chief Executive Officer, stepped in to expand upon the impactful work of those before her. Over her 17-year tenure starting as Chief Operating Officer, Maricela has provided vital leadership support and vision to the continued growth and success of Human Options. Her leadership has transformed countless lives in Orange County and continues to help foster the vision of a community where individuals can live without fear of relationship violence. Maricela’s commitment comes from a desire to raise her daughter in a world where relationship violence is not tolerated.

Maricela’s and Vivian’s ripple brought in our Board of Director’s Vice President, Susan Heller, to the Human Options family six years ago. As the Co-Managing Shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Orange County office, Chair of the Global Trademark & Brand Management Group, and Senior Advisor of Greenberg Traurig’s Global Women’s Initiative, Susan’s expertise was unmatched when she joined the board. Since then, Susan has had a profound impact in supporting Human Options in its continued mission to counsel, shelter, educate and serve.

Then came our Development Director Katie Szymczak, an inspiring woman who dedicates herself to raising funds and supporting Human Options’ mission to ignite social change. “Witnessing relationship violence as a young child has deeply shaped my commitment to this mission. By raising crucial funds, we can break the cycle of violence and strive towards a future in which every person and family in Orange County experiences safe, healthy relationships and lives free of fear.” Her smiling face can be found at almost every Human Options community event, sharing about the company and drawing people in who have the desire to help make a difference.

Yet, it’s not just these four leaders we celebrate this month; it’s every woman who has been an integral part of the Human Options community. From our dedicated staff and board members to our generous donors and resilient survivors, each one plays a vital role in our shared mission. This month, and every month, we honor and celebrate the strength, resilience, and contributions of women everywhere.

If you’re feeling inspired, learn how you can get involved to support our life changing programs at www.humanoptions.org. Together, we can continue to empower and uplift those impacted by relationship violence, creating a world where everyone can thrive free from fear.


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