Bridgeport resident Bill Van Ollefen was recently honored with CFJ’s annual Beatrice Boucher Volunteer of the Year Award for his outstanding service and dedication to our mission of transforming victims into survivors.

Bill was lauded by CFJ’s President & CEO Debra A. Greenwood for his commitment to victims through is work teaching mindfulness meditation in CFJ’s Bigelow Wellness Studio. Bill was also commended for regularly offering his talents as a photographer to capture CFJ’s fundraising and awareness events. Bill is also dedicated member of CFJ’s White Ribbon Task Force, which is dedicated to engaging men and boys in the efforts to break the cycles of domestic and sexual violence.

We chatted with Bill after he received his award at CFJ’s annual meeting.

CFJ: What drew you to volunteer here?

BV: I was introduced to CFJ by (Board Chair) Valerie Foster, who is a friend and my business partner. After I volunteered at a single event, I was hooked. Here, I found an

organization answering and supporting my concerns about domestic and sexual violence.  And the people!  I loved the people involved, so I continue to volunteer. I also took CFJ’s 40 hour certification course, which allows me to work directly with victims. I find the work fulfilling and necessary, which is a great combination for me.

In terms of what got me interested in this work, it really began in childhood. My mother was very progressive and raised five boys in a pretty gender neutral environment. We were taught respect, so abuse of any type, especially toward women and girls, was not tolerated and always addressed. That said, I witnessed abuse and realized early on how big a problem it was. In my mind children were the key to breaking the cycle and I’ve always supported efforts directed toward them. I also recognized that support for those living with domestic and sexual violence was nearly non-existent. They had no options for escape, which is why I believe what CFJ is doing is so important.

CFJ: How important is it for men to be involved in our mission?

BV: Men are critical. While men are most often the perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence, that’s not always true. So they need our support as victims, but it’s also important to engage them in the efforts to educate and break the cycle. We as men need to visibly support, educate and be proper role models to boys and continue to support their involvement with this mission as they grow into men.

CFJ: How did being named Volunteer of the Year impact you?

BV: Wow, I was honored and embarrassed too! I turned bright red as I received the award. While volunteering at CFJ, I have worked with many people who give of their time and talent. I see myself as one of many and I certainly don’t volunteer for the recognition. But it does make me proud to be recognized by such an amazing organization and group of people all supporting such an important cause.