Vivian's Farewell - Human Options

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By Vivian Clecak, retiring CEO and Founder of Human Options

Last week I visited the resident council for our Second Step transitional housing program. As I listened to the stories of our clients, I was touched by their words –

“Human Options saved my life. I do not know if I would have lived through the next beating.”

“Thanks to Human Options, I can be the mother I always wanted to be. My son was always telling me, ‘Mama, I don’t want you to be sad.’ Now we both smile.”

“I never knew there was a place like this. I thought shelters were scary places full of metal cots. My husband told me no one would help me. Now I am ready to raise my kids in a safe home and start a new job.”

“I could not believe there were strangers who cared about families like us and wanted to help.”

Again and again we hear the stories of lives changed and saved.

As I prepare for my retirement on January 31 after 34 years, I am filled with appreciation for the incredible opportunity to help break the cycle of domestic violence. I have been blessed with right work – work which makes a difference, work which fits my talents, work which creates community, work I love.

When four of us – Carolyn Churm, Margaret Thoreau, Anne Wright, and I – visualized Human Options, we had no idea how great our impact could be. We started with a dream, a world where no woman or child would ever have to be afraid in her or his own home.

We began our program on October 18, 1981 when we opened the hotline. Our first office was the trunk of my car. One year later, October 18, 1982, we had raised enough money to open a five bedroom shelter and move my office to the basement of a Laguna Beach church.

Over the years we have grown by listening to our clients and by learning from formal research. The research, four independent studies by university faculty over 34 years, showed that our programs worked – 92 percent of shelter and Second Step graduates are violence free one year or more after graduation.

We grew to meet the needs of our clients at every stage of the problem – from hotline and emergency shelter to transitional housing, community counseling centers, legal advocacy, special programs for children to help them recover from trauma of family violence, and community education/prevention programs to help create a new culture free of domestic violence. Last year alone we served 5,936 clients in our programs and educated 6,841 high school students, health care professionals, human resource professionals and parents.

I thank all of you – our wonderful staff, members of our dedicated board of directors, volunteers, generous donors, and community partners – who have created this powerful community of caring and commitment. Together we make the difference!

I will continue to support Human Options in any way I can and begin each day with gratitude for the gift of serving our community.

My heart will always be with you,

Vivian Clecak Signature