Being Brave Award
Tony Award-Winning Entertainer
Being Brave Award
© Alan Mercer
Tony Award winner Melba Moore is a multifaceted entertainer and R&B legend whose career includes four Grammy nominations, television shows and movies. Moore was sexually abused as a child and experienced domestic violence as an adult. A deeply spiritual person, Moore is dedicated to community service and helping others. She is especially passionate about organizations that help people struggling with domestic violence, homelessness and hunger. “I’ve experienced many different kinds of abuse during my life, but by helping others, I’ve learned to help myself.”
Principal, Roosevelt Elementary School
Outstanding Advocate Award
The Outstanding Advocate Award is given typically to an individual or group who challenges perceptions and educates the public about domestic violence. In response to the challenge of educating students during the pandemic, Gisela Ciancia, Roosevelt School Principal, New Brunswick, will be honored for helping Town Clock children, all of whom experienced domestic violence. Principal Ciancia will receive this honor in recognition of all educators who help the 1 in 15 children exposed to intimate partner violence.
Gisela Ciancia attended Rutgers University as an undergraduate and while there began working within the New Brunswick community. She has dedicated the past 17 years to working with youth in the city, building strong relationships that she continues to cultivate. Ciancia has risen within the ranks of the New Brunswick public school district, where she began her education career as a reading coordinator through the Youth Services System Play SAFE Program. She completed her student teaching at Paul Robeson School and began teaching in 2005. Ciancia received New Jersey Governor’s Educator of the Year recognition in 2012 and has previously served New Brunswick Public Schools as a substitute teacher, teacher, and vice-principal. Currently, she is principal of the district's Roosevelt Elementary School.
While New Brunswick's schools were closed during the recent pandemic, Ciancia worked to ensure her students' various needs continued to be met. Then, she helped them navigate a safe return to the classroom. Her commitment to the children of New Brunswick is evident through her ongoing efforts to ensure that students, families, and the community overall embrace the value of education. She promotes family and community involvement via programs that include Adopt-A-Family, the Roosevelt Handy Street Wash and Learn, and Family Literacy Night, with a goal of inspiring students to be lifelong learners and leaders.
Accepted by Financial Empowerment Coordinator Tonya F. McKinley
Outstanding Provider Award
The Outstanding Provider Award is given to an individual or group who provides emergency services to survivors of domestic violence. Safe+Sound Somerset will be honored for its work on the front lines through the pandemic, supporting an increasing number of victims of domestic violence and providing them with critically needed services.
Since 1978, Safe+Sound Somerset has been answering the call of domestic violence survivors—often literally—with calls to our 24/7 hotline that are the first step in breaking free from the violence and abuse for many who are being beaten, battered, and berated. Calls in 2020 increased to 2,272. Protecting and empowering survivors took on a new urgency as the pandemic left those we serve more vulnerable than ever, locked in and alone with their abuser—a crisis within a crisis.
But making the connection on those calls is just the beginning of what we at Safe+Sound Somerset do. Our services—from counseling and crisis intervention to family and legal advocacy to financial empowerment and housing resources—are needed more than ever.
Safe+Sound Somerset served more than 4,000 survivors in 2020, a 21% increase over 2019.
Our counseling program reached maximum capacity, with a 25% increase in referrals.
Our team of experts responded to a 35% increase in survivors needing case management, legal advocacy and education services.
Our extensive coordinated services, support individuals to grow from surviving to thriving, and engage the community with an approach that sets the standard and, in some cases, leads the nation.
Purchase a playbill ad to congratulate Safe + Sound
and Tonya while supporting Town Clock CDC!
Tonya's passion for helping others has spanned over thirty years, never missing an opportunity to volunteer where there was a need. In 2012, little did Tonya know a life-changing personal circumstance would drive her passion for helping victims of domestic violence and pursuing a degree in social work years later.
After twenty-four years of working in a corporate environment, Tonya made a courageous decision to leave her current management role in 2014 and register at Raritan Valley Community College to pursue a pre-social work degree.
Tonya became a legal advocate volunteer at what is now Safe+Sound Somerset while attending school full-time. Her work as a volunteer opened the door to eventually oversee the agency's emergency safe house and transitional house programs. While supervising the residential program, Tonya created and implemented the financial empowerment program to help survivors overcome financial barriers because of financial abuse. In collaboration with the agency's counseling and legal services, this program allowed many survivors to achieve short- and long-term financial goals.
In 2020, during the middle of a pandemic, Safe+Sound Somerset and the financial empowerment center were awarded a housing grant that opened the doors for the advocates to partner with survivors to find and secure long-term, independent, safe housing.
The domestic violence housing-first initiative has experienced momentous success under Tonya's leadership. Tonya believes the financial empowerment and housing program is successful because Safe + Sound Somerset takes a holistic approach to provide trauma-informed services.
Currently, Tonya is a full-time student and senior at the University of Louisville's Kent School of Social Work. Tonya plans to continue her education in 2022 by pursuing a master's in social work and a Juris Doctorate.
Tonya is an intern at a substance use disorder residential program for men in her spare time. She also enjoys writing the Samantha Collins detective series, in which she self-published two books, Hidden Tears at Lake Cascade and Disappearance Road. In addition, Tonya practices self-care by preparing "made-at-home meals," while listening to Brian Culbertson or smooth jazz and taking in the aroma of various essential oils.
United Methodist Church of New Brunswick
Accepted by Rev. Cyndi Stouffer
Outstanding Volunteer Award
The Outstanding Volunteer Award is given to an individual or group who is a driving force in volunteering and/or philanthropy. United Methodist Church of New Brunswick will be honored for its ministry to feed the hungry, whose numbers grew during the pandemic. They also provided meals to domestic violence survivors and their children, who reside at Town Clock Community Development Corporation.
The United Methodist Church at New Brunswick believes that God’s love shines more brightly through the beauty of our diversity. We welcome the young, the old and everyone in between; those who are single, married or divorced; people of differing abilities, races, cultures, and ethnicities; citizens, immigrants, and refugees; people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; Those who believe in God some of the time, all of the time, or aren’t quite sure yet. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!