Staff & Leadership

Karen Parker, President & Chief Executive Officer 

Karen Parker is the President & Chief Executive Officer at Safe Alliance in Charlotte, NC, which provides sexual assault and domestic violence services to over 10,000 people annually throughout Mecklenburg County and Lake Norman.

At Safe Alliance, Karen oversees an agency budget of over $4.7 million and directs over 75 staff members. In addition, she represents Safe Alliance through local, state and national activities and serves as the organization's lead decision maker and spokesperson.

Karen also participates on a number of state and local committees focusing on policy development and advocacy. In 2009, she was appointed by Governor Beverly Perdue to chair the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission. Karen also is a member of the board of directors of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Forensic Medicine Program and is the past board co-chair of the North Carolina Coalition against Domestic Violence.

Karen graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with concentrations in psychology and women's studies. She also holds a master's degree in urban studies with a concentration in nonprofit administration from Georgia State University in Atlanta. Karen has been employed with a number of nonprofit and government organizations in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas and has worked 26 years with organizations focused on assisting trauma survivors and ending domestic violence and sexual assault.

Strategy Team Members

Karen Parker, President & CEO
Caitlin Donley, Chief Advancement Officer
Laura Lawrence, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel
Joshua Sampson, Senior Finance and Strategy Officer
Tenille Banner, Director of Volunteer Relations
Cori Goldstein, LCSW, Deputy Chief Operating Officer
Sydney Hammond, Director of Annual Giving and Stewardship
Tauri Morrow, Grant Manager
Chanda Scott, Director of Shelter Services
Jamie Sellers, Director of Victim Assistance
Carol Shinn, Grant Writer
More than 60 staff members are dedicated to our mission of providing hope and healing to those imapcted by domestic violence and sexual assault. The stories below are from our staff, and illustrate why they continue to do the amazing work they do each day.  

 I want to make a difference in people's lives. We need folks on the ground doing this type of work. There is a lot of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse occurring and people need these services. I do it because I want to make a difference in the next generation, and you can only succeed at that when you help the generation standing before you now.
I chose to work for Safe Alliance because I feel our society doesn't do enough for victims of domestic violence and working here you can directly see the impact and power of raising awareness for this important cause.
I thought the 1 in 4 statistic was shocking but I had heard it so often that I think it lost its impact. However, when I started meeting those 1 in 4 women who had been victimized by domestic violence or sexual assault, my work became more personal. The Art With Heart committee is a great example of a group of women who are strong, independent, community focused, and career driven and many of them are survivors of domestic violence. It's an honor to work next to these individuals fundraising for a key resource to help others who are going through a similar situation.
I appreciate the opportunity to bring my skills and knowledge of facility maintenance to the Shelter.  With over twenty five years of experience in this field I realize the importance of building maintenance.  My philosophy is a stitch in time saves nine and that saying fits when it comes to maintaining a forty two thousand square foot facility or any dwelling for that matter. My drive is motivated by the staff, clients and children who work and live here.  We all together have to strive to make sure that we do our part and keep this shelter worthy of the names Clyde and Ethel Dickson. 
I volunteered for about seven years as a Rape Crisis Companion and Court Advocate prior to accepting a full time position. I've always believed that life is about being of service to others, and working at Safe Alliance was a perfect opportunity. There have been many times over the years when I question whether or not I'm really making a difference. Last year when I went to a doctor's appointment and was recognized by one of the staff. She asked if I remembered her and I could vaguely recall her face. She told me that I had spoken with her when she was in court filing for a protection order two years ago. She had escaped her abusive situation, received her CAN and she and her son were doing very well. She told me how much she appreciated me taking the time to speak with her and help her realize she was worth so much more than she had been told or thought. I encounter many people daily, but I realize that even if only one person actually understands what I'm trying to convey to them, then I have truly made a difference and that's why working at Safe Alliance is a blessing for me.
I came to Safe Alliance formerly United Family Services as a part time counselor with The Shelter. I became the Jail Coordinator and then moved to Victim Assistance as a Court Advocate. This will be year 20.    I have a passion for the work I do. Social work is what I've wanted to do since I was in the third grade. We learn that not everything is totally about money and sometimes you have to make what you make, and make do, in order to fulfill what you feel is your purpose in this life.
I believe in the work that Safe Alliance does.  In my role, I see how anxious the children are when they enter the shelter and I do my best to help them feel comfortable, while simultaneously providing much needed therapy. Honestly, I could not imagine doing anything else at this point in my career.  

My passion has been very deep for many years.  What has given me the most joy is the evolution we have gone through in providing services to our clients.  We have listened and witnessed what works and what they have benefitted from the most.  We still see the transformations every day in the lives of the families we work for.  This is what it is all about and why I give thanks to Safe Alliance for helping to provide the avenues to succeed. 
 After surviving an abusive relationship myself, the hardest part was the years to follow. I had to face my abuser, who tortured my soul and nearly killed me, in court for two years after leaving him. Some days it was so difficult, I wanted to give up, take it all back...I felt scared and alone. I decided to use my experience to empower myself and other women. I joined Safe Alliance so that I could do whatever possible to make sure no woman ever felt the way I felt. I want every client to know she is not alone in this battle and she is deserving of a better life.

I once received a holiday card from a client and they gave me a sign that said, "Please let me drop everything and work on your problem!" 

Throughout my years here at Safe Alliance, I have seen the unbelieveable change in many clients from when they come in for their first appointment, to when they finish and feel they are ready to move on.  Knowing that I play a small part in that is what keeps me here!
After 15 year corporate career I wanted to do work that really made a difference.  I went back to grad school in counseling.  I began at UFS as a Rape Crisis Companion and worked part time in an outpatient clinic seeing clients.  I was inspired by my sexual abuse and DV clients and loved my work with them, so applied to work part time at the shelter.  I have learned so much.  I love seeing the growth in clients from the time I first meet them in DV group or individually, they are confused and uncertain.  I love the most, watching them learn, become empowered and grow through the magic that happens in the group process.  They feel encouraged, they hear pieces of their story in the voices of other women and they suddenly begin to realize they are not alone, they are not the crazy one.  I love watching them reclaim their strength, learn new coping skills and begin to believe in themselves, becoming the strong, confident women I can see behind the veil they wear when they arrive.
We share the same compassion for working with individuals who are experiencing domestic violence and/or sexual assault. As a survivor of domestic violence, it is crucial to help educate and support the victims and survivors in their distress of dealing with domestic violence issues.  
It's reprehensible that personal safety is considered a blessing rather than a given. I fought to work here because Safe Alliance defends people at their most vulnerable, when they have been stripped of dignity, means, and strength. Our clients, who not only dare to imagine a different life for themselves and their children but also take those first terrifying steps to make that dream a reality, desperately need us to stand in solidarity with them as they transition from victim to survivor. Nothing is more devastating to a perpetrator than community. Donors can unite with staff and volunteers to send a clear message to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault: You're safe. You're not alone. That community of support is the blessing on which I focus, because Safe Alliance clients are more than survivors to me; they have also been my friends, family, and neighbors.

In an emergency please dial 911

Call the Greater Charlotte Hope Line 24/7 for info on parenting, domestic violence and sexual assault 980.771.4673.

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