MANSFIELD — After spending more than 23 years providing safety, education, and resources to families experiencing violence, a beloved local leader is passing the torch and finally getting a little more time for herself and her family.
Executive Director Katherine “Kathy” Ezawa will celebrate her retirement in June after serving The Domestic Violence Shelter of Richland County for 15 years.
Ezawa began her professional career later in life, and worked in several different social service settings prior to that time. Ezawa also spent several years in Japan as a missionary with her church and has always had a passion for helping others.
Prior to becoming the executive director in Richland County, Ezawa, a licensed social worker, was employed as the Shelter Manager for Every Woman’s House, operated by One Eighty in Wooster, Ohio. Her career has been focused on protecting victims and helping them become survivors.
Ezawa was first employed at The Shelter in 1998 as a front-line advocate. Graduating from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, 7 years later, she returned in the executive director role.
For Ezawa, a typical day is spent serving families, collaborating with community partners, advocating for resources, funder relations, and ensuring the residents have their medical, mental health, and legal needs met.
As a domestic violence veteran, she has seen a lot of changes over the years — one of the most meaningful initiatives has been the partnership with the Mansfield Division of Police to connect survivors of domestic violence with victim advocates from the scene of the call.
The Lethality Assessment Program, initiated in 2018, seeks to reduce the number of fatalities related to domestic violence by immediately connecting survivors to The Shelter for safety and resources. The Shelter also recently began partnering with Richland County Sheriff’s Department on county-wide implementation of the program.
“I will miss directly serving our community members in need of safety and security. It has been a pleasure getting to care for and know all of these individuals,” Ezawa said. “I will also miss working with our great community partners, who care deeply about our community.”
The Domestic Violence Shelter Board Chair, Rebecca Hergatt, said “Kathy’s passion for families impacted by domestic violence coupled with her vision and management skills have been a gift to the shelter and the entire community.”
Ezawa has earned a number of recognitions, including The Steel Magnolia Award recognizing women who have overcome obstacles and a TWIN Award, which offers Tribute to Women in Industry who have made significant contributions to their industries and communities.
“This hasn’t been just a job for her but a mission,” Hergatt said of Ezawa.
“I have watched my staff grow and become great professionals,” Ezawa said of her co-workers. “It has been my privilege to help shape the next generation of advocates and leaders.”
Ezawa has balanced a career of caring with being a devoted spouse and matriarch. She is the mother of three children and has two grandchildren.
Although Ezawa will be on hand to guide the new executive director if needed at The Shelter, she is most looking forward to having more time to travel and visit the many wonders and people of the world.
“I have worked a long time and enjoyed every minute of it. However, I am ready to relax and enjoy time with my family,” Ezawa said.
About The Domestic Violence Shelter
The Domestic Violence Shelter, Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization that opened its doors in 1979 as one of the first three domestic violence shelters in the state of Ohio. The Shelter was founded by a group of concerned citizens who were moved to provide much-needed assistance to victims of domestic violence that found themselves in danger without options for safety. The Domestic Violence Shelter’s board and staff live the core values of respect for our clients, teamwork and collaboration, always being ethical, and excellence and effectiveness in programs and services. Our dedicated staff provides a full range of services for domestic and sexual assault survivors while increasing awareness in the community.