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Meet Dorian Townsend of Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dorian Townsend.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have worked in the nonprofit field since I was 15, serving many roles and trying to “live my passion,” to help those most in need. I currently serve as the Executive Director of the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA) in Apache Junction, leading the agency in their CAAFA 2020 Strategic Plan. Before coming to CAAFA, I had a rich professional career, serving nonprofits and universities in the United States, Russia, and Australia. I have served at multiple domestic violence, homelessness, and basic needs service agencies and have nearly eight years of grant management and nonprofit fundraising experience as well as service in numerous leadership, evaluation and quality assurance roles, such as working as a multi-state consultant for mentoring program effective practices through MENTOR, The National Mentoring Partnership.

During my time with MENTOR, I served on the Executive Editing Committee for the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, Third Edition. Previously, I worked with PSI International to evaluate existing HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Moscow, Russia and helped create an HIV/AIDS prevention program to serve Moscow and the surrounding cities. I have a Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales, one of the top Australian universities and have authored multiple peer-reviewed articles in Russian scientific journals. I have also served on numerous boards and committees, including current service on the Advisory Council for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Ozanam Manor Bridge Shelter, the City of Phoenix Human Trafficking Council, and the Maricopa Association of Government (MAG) Regional Domestic Violence Council. During my free time, I enjoy playing hockey, strategy board games, and volunteering with Soroptimist International of the East Valley, Kiwanis of Mesa, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I finished my Ph.D. right at the beginning of the Recession and have had to reinvent myself multiple times. Despite this, I have always found roles where I felt like I was contributing to the greater good, helping those who have fallen through the cracks and empowering them to build independent lives.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA) story. Tell us more about the business.
My agency (Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA))’s mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to be free from abuse through collaboration, prevention, awareness, and support. Our agency was founded in 1998 by community members who were confronted by the tragic reality that local victims of domestic violence and their children were living in their cars and out in the desert because they had nowhere to go. CAAFA has grown substantially since then, now serving victims of domestic violence from east Maricopa and northern Pinal counties and victims of sexual violence from eastern Maricopa and all of Pinal Counties. We provide a 16-bed emergency shelter, support groups, legal advocacy, case management, sexual assault victim advocacy, nutritional support through food boxes, and community outreach services.

CAAFA partners closely with community agencies (including police departments, prosecutor’s offices, education institutions, etc.) and other DV agencies. For example, we partner with Autumn House, for whom we offer legal advocacy services, and House of Refuge, where we host weekly support groups. We also facilitate quarterly training on DV related topics, which are frequently attended by other DV organizations.

However, CAAFA’s approach is unique: We offer low-barrier services that are responsive to the co-morbidities of DV, including substance abuse and mental illness. We also cover a very large service territory; in many communities, ours are the only available DV services.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
My dad always said, “If we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.” Murphy’s Law has definitely had an effect on my life, but often these challenges have been blessings in disguise, leading me to my current role and my true passion–serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

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