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October 12, 2012

New Crisis Shelter director believes she’s a good fit for the agency — and vice versa

NEW CASTLE — For 20-plus years, Deb Hartman infused her talents into various areas of the nonprofit sector.

She’d done everything from providing program assistance for an organization that helps at-risk youth in Pittsburgh schools to serving as chief executive officer of the National Kidney Foundation of Western Pennsylvania. But while she helped to spark the work those agencies did, only one truly lit a fire in her.

“I had the privilege of working for an organization called POWER, Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery,” Hartman said.  “That’s when I discovered my true passion was women’s issues.”

Thus, she feels like she’s found a special niche for herself as the new director of the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County. Hartman, 54, replaces Dayna Shaw Sear, who stepped down earlier this year.

“It sort of feels like I’ve come full circle,” she said. “The philosophy and model here, the culture here is not just empowering victims, but staff as well. It just feels like a really good fit for me. I’m really excited and honored to be a part of this team, to have a hand in continuing the good work that happens here.”

Not only does she have a background in – and a passion for – the type of services that the shelter provides, she’s also Western Pennsylanian to core. Born in Braddock, she grew up in West Mifflin, and her father was a steelworker as USX’s Homestead Works.

“Plus, I’m part Sicilian, so it feels real comfortable to be here (in New Castle),” she laughed. “Love the food! Pizza Joe’s is great.

“So it feels very similar to my background. People are very warm and inviting and I’m looking forward to getting to know people better and just continuing the relationships that we have.”

Hartman believes that her background as an executive director of a nonprofit agency and her fundraising experience were part of the reason she landed at the Crisis Shelter, but that her educational background also drew the shelter’s board of directors to her.

“The board truly did a phenomenal job in terms of not just looking at the backgrounds and the credentials of the candidates, but also whether or not it would be a good fit,” she said. “My education is from Carlow University, and I’ve completed all my graduate course work in professional leadership nonprofit management there.

“And Carlow is focused as predominantly a women’s organization and sort of provided me with the background that extends that my natural philosophy of women’s issues and empowerment.”

Meanwhile, it was the shelter’s spectrum of services that persuaded Hartman that it would be a good fit for her.

“The combined years of experience and expertise, along with the passion, the dedication, the commitment to the mission, it’s awe-inspiring,” she said. “ I think that beyond the tertiary care —  which obviously occurs and we do very well here — it’s the whole comprehensive spectrum of services, from awareness and prevention – we’re in schools – and  the visioning about how can we expand that and get to root causes.

“Obviously, we need the tertiary care but we need to address that as well. There’s also restorative justice, making sure that the victim’s voice is heard. This organization understands and is involved in the whole continuum.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)

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