MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Carolyn Zdziera is stepping down as executive director of Community Alternatives to Violence, but the lessons she has taught – and learned – will not go away anytime soon.
Zdziera, who has worked for the nonprofit agency for 15 years, said the decision was not an easy one.
Her retirement will take effect on September 30, she said, adding that the goal was to give board members enough time to appoint a successor.
“Over a year ago, I became a cancer survivor and the demands of the job became too great. It really is 24 hour work in many ways and it is my passion, so this decision is important to me, ”she said.
“It has been a great trip, both personally and professionally,” she added.
While the job has not always been easy, she has never doubted its importance – or its ability to change lives.
Participants are referred by the justice system and ordered to the program because of convictions or plea deals related to domestic violence, household battery and other related offenses, she said.
They come for a variety of reasons, but physical abuse is rarely one, she said.
The courses are not about teaching anger management, but rather about examining their belief systems, including stereotypes about women, relationships and the “need to be right about everything,” she said. .
“I appreciate the work we do at Community Alternatives to Violence, and I appreciate the support that we have had over the years,” she said.
Support came from board and community members, other non-profit organizations, and especially court officials from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, she said.
The men and women who were part of his class will not be quickly forgotten either.
“Working with our participants was the highlight of my time at Community Alternatives to Violence. They taught me a lot about the behavior common to both sexes and the difficulties they encounter in their interpersonal relationships, ”she said.
“They have repeatedly shown that abusive behavior can be replaced by respectful actions,” she said.
Larry Schultz, president of Community Alternatives to Violence and long-time member of the board, praised Zdziera for being “ahead of the times” for helping people find a new way to solve these problems.
“She’s been the go-to person for a long time in the Eastern Panhandle, and it’s such an important job. It is truly amazing that we have been fortunate to have someone like Carolyn, as dedicated as she is, who has worked for us all these years, “said Schultz.
He said she was also “a leader in reaching out to others, letting them know there was a problem” instead of waiting for someone to take the first step.
“Carolyn was the first to get on the gas in the Eastern Panhandle and move this problem forward. She understands this state of mind very well, and this is evident from the results that were possible under her leadership, ”he said.
Family court judge David Greenberg expressed similar support in an email after learning of his retirement.
“You deserve all the credit for the success of community alternatives to violence. It’s a great resource that I use for domestic violence and child care, “said Greenberg’s email.
“You deserve a wonderful retirement and should be proud of the program you have built over the years.”