RESPOND, Inc., the Somerville-based nonprofit organization serving survivors of domestic violence throughout Middlesex and Suffolk counties, announced today that, following a rigorous nationwide search, Victoria Helberg has been selected to succeed Jessica Brayden as Chief Executive Officer. Helberg has held numerous roles at RESPOND since coming on board in 2007, most recently serving as its Director of Programs and Services. Helberg will assume her new role on October 1 when Brayden steps down as CEO, a role she has held since 2008.
“I’m proud of RESPOND’s expansion over the last fifteen years,” Brayden says. “Over this time, we have tripled the number of programs serving survivors, and tripled the size of our budget and staff. This has meant so many more opportunities for safety and self-sufficiency for the survivors who have trusted us with their experiences.”
Of Brayden, Missy Shireman, RESPOND’s board president and treasurer, says, “Jessica has left her mark not only on RESPOND, but on all of us. Her dedication to survivors has been at the forefront of every decision, and her mentorship of staff leaves a powerful legacy.”
Shireman adds, “While we are sad to see Jessica leave, I know the board shares my excitement about RESPOND’s future under Victoria’s leadership.”
As the oldest domestic violence agency in New England, RESPOND began in the 1970s when four women from Somerville opened their own homes as safe havens for women fleeing abuse. Today, RESPOND supports all survivors as they seek safety and justice, and provides healthy relationships and violence prevention programming to community members of all ages.
Helberg joined RESPOND in 2007 as the Children’s Services Coordinator after running programming for children and families at the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee. Helberg’s commitment to Somerville families – especially those experiencing homelessness and violence – predates her career and is deeply ingrained. Inspired by her mother, the former director of Community Action Agency of Somerville’s Head Start program, and from a very young age, Helberg has always felt deeply that everyone deserves to feel safe at home.
“Victoria is a visionary when it comes to program design and implementation,” Brayden says. “She listens openly to clients and community members, and is always looking to grow RESPOND’s programs to meet their needs. She brings the same receptivity and drive for innovation to her organizational leadership. It has been a privilege to work alongside Victoria and it is an honor to pass the baton to her.”
During her tenure at RESPOND, Helberg oversaw operation of the shelter as it doubled in capacity, now serving eight families fleeing from domestic violence. Inspired in part by her then high school aged daughter, Helberg developed RESPOND’s teen dating violence curriculum and broadened its school outreach programming. Under Helberg’s leadership, RESPOND expanded the area served through its law enforcement partnerships, now reaching survivors in Wilmington, Woburn, and Reading (in addition to those in Malden, Melrose, and Wakefield) with civilian advocacy and case management services.