Held at the Chapel + Cultural Center on Burdett Avenue in Troy, this free event showcased artwork by survivors of domestic violence and recognized two very special community collaborators: STEM Running Program received the Volunteer Leadership Award and the Rensselaer County Probation Department received the Coordinated Community Response Award.
About our Honorees
STEM: Strong Through Every Mile (STEM) is a couch-to-5K program that empowers survivors of domestic abuse through the sport of running. STEM began informally through a partnership with Unity House in August of 2013. What started with five participants and two case managers reaching their first 5K finish line with volunteer coaches and a healthy dose of happy tears, has since grown to an official 501(c)(3) that has worked with well over 100 survivors throughout the Capital Region.
Runners come to STEM at all fitness levels, ages, and sizes. They finish the program with concrete, indisputable proof of their own powerful bodies and minds. With two sessions every year, and caring coaches who meet participants where they are at, STEM shows that one answer to the oft-quoted statistic that one in four women will be a victim of abuse is simple: one solution to 1 in 4 is 3.1 – miles, that is.
An integral part of STEM is Jennifer Gish. Starting STEM as a grassroots project, Jennifer worked to develop the program because she understood how powerful running can be as a tool for healing trauma. With a mission of empowerment through the sport of running, STEM is today an organization offering support in 4 counties and works closely with DV agencies and other programs that serve clients with traumatic histories.
Jennifer Gish has educated and trained a large group of very dynamic, compassionate and dedicated volunteers to support STEM runners, literally, every step of the way. She has long been an advocate for survivors of domestic violence. First as a features reporter for the Albany Times Union, where she wrote about many topics. As a sports writer, she never failed to hold batterers and the media accountable for dating and domestic abuse. She helped shed light on the issue of domestic violence and the needs of victims. Now working in the private sector, Jennifer continues to be an impassioned advocate for people in need. On behalf of STEM, Jennifer will receive from Unity House the Volunteer Leadership Award.
The Rensselaer County Probation Department: The mission of the probation department is to enhance community safety, reduce crime, and assist the victims of crime through offender accountability and rehabilitation. In this regard, the Rensselaer County Probation Department is a true community collaborator.
Kelly Miazga, as a domestic violence liaison and supervisor within the department, works closely with agencies that help meet the needs of victims of domestic violence. In her years of working with Unity House’s Domestic Violence Services program, Kelly has shown great care and compassion in her role. A skilled collaborator, she goes above and beyond to help keep victims safe and works to advocate within the department for greater understanding of the complex issue of domestic violence.
Many thanks to the Chapel + Cultural Center, our Honorees, and our artists for sharing in what was a wonderful evening.