S.O.F.I.A. Walks With Hope

Within a hidden nook located at the south end of Montclair, NJ, supporters of Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates, lovingly referred to as S.O.F.I.A., gathered for the 2nd annual Walk Against Domestic Violence on the brisk morning of September 8, 2012. The atmosphere was warming and full of high spirits. Canterbury Park again posed as an intimate gathering place, its lush scenery complete with aged trees, grassy landscape, a small hill and a winding track. Eager to lend a helping a hand, Montclair Jr. Sports Academy Founder, Quintus McDonald and Montclair Criminal Defense Attorney, Joseph A. Fortunato were first on the scene.

Supporters with the likes of Montclair’s own, Mayor Robert D. Jackson, Fourth Ward Councilor Renée E. Baskerville and Deputy Mayor Robert Russo were welcomed upon arrival and given purple bracelets, a customary contribution item at S.O.F.I.A. events. Attendees were also given the chance to partake in a raffle, offering various items contributed by local merchants, namely, Brookdale Shoprite, Tapastry Restaurant, Cuban Pete’s, Grove Pharmacy, Ceasar Jewelers, Buds For You and Palace Car Wash. The raffle prizes consisted of gift cards, jewelry and original artwork. Accommodations consisted of a spread of fresh fruit, assorted snacks, water, sweet treats and an array of free merchandise donated by patrons. Other local supporters of the Domestic Violence Walk included Senator Nia H. Gill,(M.F.E.E.) Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence and Smash Burger.

Just around mid morning, while the sun continued to play hide and seek among the cool grey clouds, everyone was encouraged to walk at their own pace around the winding track in the rear of the park. Wearing purple ribbons symbolizing Domestic Violence awareness and white and purple t-shirts that read “Walk Against Domestic Violence – With Awareness There Is Hope”, vivacious walkers took stride and marched together, showing support for victims and survivors of Domestic Violence.

A most enjoyable highlight of this assemblage featured three motivational speakers. Under the shade of a large tree, Elijah Brown, writer and aspiring actor, opened with an eloquent exhibition of poetry and excerpts from his book, “It Takes a Child to Raise a Village”. Afterward, health and wellness instructor, Dr. Nichole Simmons, inspired the crowd with heartfelt testimony of survival and endurance after being in a relationship with a violent spouse. Guest speaker MacDella Cooper charmed the audience, telling of her life changing experiences. A descendant of Liberia, she survived a civil war, eventually immigrating to America where she became a world famous model; now giving back to the community through her organization, “The MacDella Cooper Foundation”, which is dedicated to the nurturing of children.

Cynthia Walker, Founder of S.O.F.I.A., headed a recognition ceremony dedicating this time to present “Certificates of Appreciation” to sponsors of the S.O.F.I.A. Domestic Violence Walk; Investors Bank, Coda Kitchen & Bar, Towanda McEachern of Supporting Our Sisters and William S. Jiggetts – Family Financial Management Practice. In-Kind Contributors, Mary Scotti – 73 See Gallery, Dawn Fitch – Pooka Boutique, Al Johnson – Artist, School of Rock Montclair, Armando Diaz – Kat Klaw Productions and Joseph Campbell – NJ Marketing Group & Black NJ were also recipients of S.O.F.I.A. Certificates. With sincerity and humbleness, Ms. Walker delivered a message of thanks to all patrons, volunteers and supporters, beginning, “We would like to thank everyone that has supported us on this journey lovingly called S.O.F.I.A…. ”
Atop the hill, this moving event closed with a beautiful prayer articulated by Fateen Zayid, Director of the Newark Fire Department, just before the release of purple balloons in memory of loved ones lost to Domestic Violence.

S.O.F.I.A. is a 501(c)3 Non-profit organization bringing its community together for the well being, safety and advocacy of women and children affected by Domestic Violence. Focused on the assistance and healing of victims and survivors, S.O.F.I.A. looks forward to opening the “S.O.F.I.A. Success Center” in the near future. For more information on how you can support S.O.F.I.A. please visit www.supportsofia.org.

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