Courtney Smith

Helping to keep the islands SAFE

  • Sun Nov 1st, 2020 4:41pm
  • Life

Submitted by Courtney Smith

My name is Courtney Smith and work as the Program Manager for SAFE San Juans.

SAFE San Juans is our local nonprofit agency serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We hope to help survivors gain autonomy through advocacy, therapy, support, and referrals. The staff at SAFE San Juans listens to individuals as they describe their needs and desires. We then come alongside them to support as needed. All SAFE San Juans services are free and confidential.

My job is to work with the SAFE San Juans team to deliver exceptional services to all San Juan County residents. Our team is made up of eight staff members working on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan island. Our collaborative goal is the prevention and elimination of domestic violence and sexual assault.

I began work at SAFE San Juans as a volunteer. After volunteering for the agency, I developed a passion for working with survivors. It was at that time that I began the training process of becoming a community advocate. After working as a community advocate, I began the necessary training to become a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention specialist then obtained the training for the position of a legal advocate. With this training, I was qualified to teach prevention and assist clients with legal advocacy.

Now, as the Program Manager of SAFE San Juans, I work with our administration team to oversee the delivery of legal advocacy (filling out and filing of protection orders); prevention (sexual assault and domestic violence school and community prevention); medical advocacy (support survivors with initial or ongoing medical appointments); advocacy (support); and housing assistance.

I grew up in Friday Harbor and was raised by an amazing, strong, caring, hardworking single mom. I am now raising my three children as a single mom in Friday Harbor. My mother, Gigi Zakula is the person who most inspires me. She is truly a woman in business. She worked from the ground up and is now the owner and operator of Islanders Insurance. She has always supported and inspired her children to work hard and be good humans. She always says, “We have good bones,” which means there are trials and tribulations but, in the end, we are good, honest, caring, loving people. This is how I raise my own children.

Many others in our wonderful community have inspired me and helped me get where I am today. Steve Brandli has spent countless hours assisting me with legal advocacy and training me on the laws pertaining to domestic violence and sexual assault. He continues to support our agency and the clients we serve. Kathy Hagn and Ashley Strutz have been invaluable community partners. Their compassion for people is truly inspiring. The amazing ladies in the Juvenile Courts and the County Clerk’s Office have offered their support and knowledge without judgment. My coworkers are some of the most professional, empathetic, resourceful, intelligent people I have ever had the honor to work with. SAFE San Juans Executive Director Dave Dunaway has taught me the true meaning of leadership. It is an honor to be able to learn from someone with so much life experience and love for others.

I truly believe my success is a combination of this community’s support and the support of the people living in it. I feel blessed every day for what I have. I can only hope this story inspires others to dream big. There are many ideas of what success is, my definition of success is to have the desired goal and then do everything you can to achieve that goal.

SAFE San Juans’s San Juan Island office is located at 570A Guard St. in Friday Harbor and is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, call 360-378-8680. SAFE’s Orcas office is also open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and is located at 296 Main St., 201, call 360-376-5979. The organization’s Lopez office is open by appointment and is located at 262 Weeks Road, C, call 460-468-3788.

You can find SAFE San Juans online at https://safesj.org/ or call one of SAFE’s 24/7 helplines, located on each of the main islands: San Juan, 360-378-2345; Orcas, 360-376-1234; and Lopez, 360-468-4567.