Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli attended the reopening to dedicate the center in memory of Christine Molnar, who served as president and CEO of Safe Space from 2009-2013.
Molnar unexpectedly and tragically passed away in January of 2013, but Barrios-Paoli said that her legacy lives on.
“She always struck me for her intelligence, her passion, her caring, her wanting to make a real difference, wanting to do things around social justice, around making life better for people,” the deputy mayor said.
“Not only did she make a difference at Safe Space, she became a real leader in child welfare,” she added. “She went way too soon, but left a big mark.”
Krista Pietrangelo, who worked with Molnar at Community Service Society and then followed her to Safe Space, said that Molnar was always “the smartest person in the room” and was a joy to work with.
“She inspired everyone to want to do their best work, to keep trying even when it seemed hard,” Pietrangelo said. “She really managed to unite and inspire this whole team. And she had a special passion for the youth center and for the kids who came here, who often had very rough lives.”
Safe Space runs programs for children of all ages to keep them safe from abuse, violence and neglect. They help with school, provide medical assistance and provide children with a place they can turn to in times of need.
The organization also runs numerous other programs through their family resource centers — located in Jamaica, Far Rockaway and Ozone Park — to help keep families together and safe.
For the past year and a half, Safe Space has been merging with Episcopal Social Services (ESS). The formal merger is expected to be completed in 2015, which will result in family services being provided in four boroughs with a team of 1,000 staff members.
A representative from Verizon’s HopeLine program — which supports organizations that help prevent domestic violence — gave Safe Space a $25,000 grant at the reopening to help fund staffing and training.
“When evaluating organizations, we want to make sure they’ve got a good reputation, they do a lot of great work in the community and we make sure that they can put [the money] to good use,” said Andrew Testa, a Verizon Wireless representative.
“The end goal is to do the best we can to fight domestic violence and help those that we can,” he added