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DeGonia believes in the mission of breaking the cycle of domestic violence –

by Judith Hruz

Olney resident Thomas DeGonia II has an extensive resume.
He was a prosecutor in the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for eight years.
He was a special prosecutor in Prince George’s County during the trial of Deonte Carraway, a former Maryland school aide who was sentenced last year to 100 years in prison in a child sex abuse scandal.
He served on a civil rights monitoring team in Detroit. He tackled white collar crime. And for six years he has been a partner in the law firm of Ethridge, Quinn, Kemp, McAuliffe, Rowan & Hartinger in Rockville.
As proud as he might be of all of those roles, he understands that his position as president of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center Foundation is arguably the most important right now.
For all that he has done to make sure the Family Justice Center stays true to its mission of providing a safe haven to families impacted by domestic violence, he earned the foundation’s Leadership Award in the fall.
He said he is “humbled” by the honor.
“I believe in the mission of the foundation and the Family Justice Center,” he said. “There must be a safe place for families to go.”
The Family Justice Center is a collaboration of public-private agencies. Located in Rockville, it is a one-stop shop of the services needed to help families through the crisis of abuse.
The center “is central to the delivery of free, multi-disciplinary, protective and remedial services to a vulnerable population,” explained Montgomery County Sheriff Darren M. Popkin.
Since its inception in May 2009, the center has delivered personalized services and support to over 10,000 people, Popkin said.
“Services that previously required multiple trips to various locations on several dates are now provided in a coordinated program by the Sheriff’s Office, State’s Attorney’s Office, [Montgomery County] Police Department, social services and Domestic Violence Community affiliates during one visit in one hospitable location,” he said.
Businesses and a variety of other community agencies and organization take part in the help that the center provides.
The Montgomery County Family Justice Center is one of the first in the country, DeGonia said, to “put egos aside” and come together to help families.
“When someone has the courage to come forward and report domestic violence, you might only have that one chance to help,” he said.
DeGonia said “more people than you know have been impacted” by domestic violence. But that does not mean they come forward for help.
“The numbers are disturbing,” he added.
He said that one in four women experiences domestic violence at some point in her life.
Domestic violence impacts men, women and children and comes in many forms, including physical, mental and financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs in 99 percent of all domestic violence cases, he said.
“At its root, it is about control,” DeGonia said. “We often think of the physical type of domestic violence, but it is about manipulation. It is a mechanism of control.”
The mission of the Family Justice Center Foundation is two-fold: To support the work of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center by raising funds and providing services to victims of domestic violence and their children and to raise awareness regarding the impact of domestic violence and offer outreach to the county’s youth to help teach about healthy relationships.
A non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, the foundation works to help strengthen the lives of families affected by domestic violence and relationship abuse and break the cycle of violence in future generations.
Popkin lauds DeGonia’s efforts in leading the foundation.
“Tom has shown tremendous leadership during his tenure as the president of the Family Justice Center Foundation,” the sheriff said. “Although Tom’s professional and personal life is incredibly busy, he continues his regular outreach to multiple community groups in support of the work of the foundation. Tom’s acceptance of the Foundation Leadership Award was truly a well-deserved recognition of his hard work and efforts.”

For more information on the Montgomery County Family Justice Center, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/fjc. For information on the foundation, visit mcfjcfoundation.org.

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