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Ocean Partnership for Children hosts 3rd Annual Domestic Violence Vigil
The vigil was held in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event's main speaker was Ed Parze of the Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation.
According to estimates by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and statistics from the FBI, approximately 16,441 individuals were victims of domestic violence homicides in the last 10 years. Ocean Partnership for Children, Inc. (OPC) in Toms River aims to raise awareness on domestic violence and change these devastating statistics.
In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the nonprofit organization hosted its 3rd Annual Domestic Violence Vigil last week at its Toms River headquarters at 36 Washington Street.
The candlelight vigil honored the lives of victims of domestic violence and the resilience of survivors. The evening included speakers from NJ Children's System of Care, the Ocean County Prosecutors Office, Providence House and the Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation.
Ed Parze, of the Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation, was the vigil's main speaker. Parze took to the podium to share his daughter Stephanie's powerful story. Parze created the Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation to honor and remember Stephanie's life. The foundation's mission is to provide education, intervention and support to families and individuals dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse and missing loved ones.
"Stephanie was missing for 87 days," said Parze. "During those 87 days, we formed groups consisting of over 1,000 people at different times to search for. We later learned that Stephanie had been murdered in an act of domestic violence. Our worst nightmare was confirmed."
Today, Stephanie's father hopes to help as many victims as he can so that they can have a chance to live the life they deserve. "If we share what we learned with families of the missing and if just one person gets found a little faster, and hopefully safe, we will have honored Stephanie," he said. "She deserves the legacy we are trying to create."
Prior to the vigil, Toms River Mayor Maurice "Mo" Hill presented a proclamation to Maureen DeSantis, OPC's Assistant Director of Clinical Operations. DeSantis spearheads the Domestic Violence Vigil each year.
"As Ocean County's Care Management Organization, we are part of the New Jersey Children's System of Care and are responsible for linking youth in crisis to resources to help them heal and succeed," said Mary Jo Buchanan, Executive Director of OPC. "Although we work with the Children's System of Care, we are our own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, run by a volunteer Board of Trustees."
OPC serves Ocean County youth up to age 21 who is struggling with a mental health, substance us or developmental challenge. "Many of our youth are depressed, anxious, have suicidal thoughts and problems at home and in school," said Buchanan.
The goal of OPC is to keep kids at home, in school and safely in the community. "We are successful – 96 percent of our youth show improvement or stability because of our care coordination,"
"Many of our youth and families are impacted by domestic violence, whether the youth have experienced violence themselves or have witnessed it in their homes," said Buchanan. "We estimate that approximately 20 percent of our youth are experience domestic violence, so it is a very important issue for us. That's why we hold the Domestic Violence Vigil each year to call attention to the issue, recognize the impact it has on our youth and families and to remember those who have been impacted by violence."
*According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
About Ocean Partnership for Children Inc.
Founded in 2005, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) is Ocean County's Care
Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and
their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care management
services for Ocean County youth up to the age of 21 years who have mental health,
substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting
them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals.
Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost
to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria
of the New Jersey Children's System of Care. To learn more, visit https://www.oceanpartnership.org or https://www.oceanresourcenet.org.