Story by: NASHELLY CHAVEZ

A seasoned nonprofit director experienced in working with vulnerable communities has been tapped to run Sonoma County’s Family Justice Center, a hub of services for domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors.

Marsha Lucien, 46, had worked for eight years as director of Volunteers of America’s Northern California and Northern Nevada District in Sacramento. In that position, she oversaw reentry programs for people getting out of drug treatment facilities and transitional housing for homeless veterans, among other responsibilities.

Previously, Lucien worked as a grant administrator and case manager at Mission Solano Bridge to Life Center for two years.

The array of organizations housed at the Family Justice Center, which is operating virtually during the coronavirus pandemic, was among the factors that led her to apply for the executive director job, she said.

Lucien, who started her new position Dec. 1, also liked that the center’s work was trauma-informed, which prevents survivors of abuse from being victimized again, she said.

The executive director post was vacated in early 2019 when Lucien’s predecessor, Wes Winter, left for a job in Southern California after losing his home in the 2017 Tubbs fire. An interim director retired earlier this year.

“I just thought this is where I would really be able to have the most impact on people with the most need,” Lucien said.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who opened the center in 2011, said Lucien’s experience in the nonprofit and criminal justice sectors made her stand out from other candidates for the leadership role.

Prior to switching to the nonprofit sector, Lucien worked as a probation officer for about a decade in Solano and Alameda counties, an experience she said opened her eyes to gaps in public services.

“She is really someone with great positive energy, an electric smile and someone who was asking all the right questions before she even got the job,” Ravitch said of Lucien. “She was diving in.”

Two Family Justice Center employees will report to Lucien, and she’s responsible for daily operations of the entire center, which operates on an annual budget of about $800,000.

Lucien, who reports to Ravitch, will be paid an annual salary of about $108,700 plus benefits, the district attorney said.

Lucien holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix in 2004, which has helped her with the funding aspect of nonprofit work.

Verity, which provides counseling and operates a crisis line for sexual assault survivors, Legal Aid of Sonoma County, Catholic Charities and the Council on Aging are among the organizations that work out of the justice center’s Mendocino Avenue building in Santa Rosa.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and Santa Rosa Police Department’s domestic violence units are also based there.

The pandemic forced the center’s services to go virtual, creating a physical barrier for Lucien, her staff and the center’s partners.

“It’s essential that she get to know the partners, gets to know the members of the community, so she can be effective in the center,” Ravitch said. “She’s going to be overseeing staff that will be working virtually. Her tools will be phone, email and Zoom.”

To build connections between Lucien and local residents and to raise extra money for the center, the nonprofit is hosting a virtual fundraiser and silent auction on Friday. Sen. Mike McGuire will co-host the event, which starts at 5 p.m.

“We’ve done a lot of great work here, but we’re hungry to do much more,” Lucien said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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