REACH recently welcomed Lauren Montanaro to our Prevention Team as the Community Engagement Specialist. In this role she will be leading trainings and also helping to coordinate our Volunteer Program. We recently sat down for a little Q&A to help readers get to know her better:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Rhode Island, just outside of Providence. I went to college at American University, in Washington, D.C., where I majored in Law & Society and minored in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I started getting involved in this work after attending my first Take Back the Night, and ultimately ended up joining the first group of PEERS at my college. PEERS is an acronym, a very long acronym, that stands for Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence. Our goal was to raise awareness among the student population about domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking. We facilitated workshops for student groups, and conducted numerous outreach events. I also spent a few weeks between my junior and senior year volunteering with the Christian Appalachian Project at one of the domestic violence shelters they were running at the time. The experience was incredible, and inspired me so much in my work with PEERS.
But my plan was never to work full time in the field of domestic violence. In fact, I always planned on attending law school… But something about that experience changed my outlook, and every time I would go on an interview for a potential job, I would ultimately leave thinking about that shelter. The Christian Appalachian Project has a program for what they call “Long-term volunteers,” which offers essentially full time volunteer opportunities to folks interested in volunteering at least nine months of their time. A few weeks before graduation, I sent an email asking if there were any more volunteer positions available for the following year, and as luck had it, there were! I changed all of my plans, and moved out to rural Appalachian Kentucky, and spent a year volunteering with the Christian Appalachian Project & AmeriCorps through a joint volunteer and grant program. As that year came to a close, I realized this work was too close to my heart to walk away from, and I started looking into opportunities to stay involved.
I found REACH through a lucky Google search, and loved the focus on working with LGBQ/T survivors, and especially their mindfulness when working with male and trans survivors. I applied for a position as a Residential Advocate, and worked with survivors in our shelter for the past two years. I loved working in the shelter, and was constantly inspired by the incredible men and women who came through our doors. Yet I always missed my Preventionist roots. When the Community Engagement Specialist position was created and the opportunity arose to join Education and Prevention team, I decided to apply. I am so excited for the opportunity to continue working with REACH in this new capacity, and cannot wait to build relationships with our volunteers and communities.
What are some of your hobbies?
Playing with other people’s dogs! Oh, and I love skydiving! I also enjoy running, crocheting, and playing the ukulele… but really, those first two are definitely my favorites.
What are you most excited about in your new job?
There are so many things… I suppose I’m most excited about working more closely with our volunteers. With my role at the shelter, I was fortunate enough to get to know several of our volunteers very well. I have to admit, we are incredibly fortunate here at REACH. Our staff members accomplish incredible work; they move mountains with such limited time and resources. But we absolutely cannot do it alone. The support of our volunteers, and the enthusiasm that they bring, keep this agency going in ways we can never explain. I am so grateful for all those individuals who have already given so much to REACH and the survivors we work with, and I am so excited to meet and work with the new folks who are interested in joining us!
If you are interested in volunteering with REACH, holding a training in your community, or bringing in a dog for her to play with, email Lauren for more information.